With the football and basketball teams already in the United States rounding off their preparations for the Rio Olympics, and majority of foreign-based track and field stars finding their way to Brazil, many Nigerians were expecting to see the ‘few’ athletes and officials back home jetting out of the country as a single team for the Games. But that is not to be.
Rather, Team Nigeria will fly out in batches, with the first contingent expected to jet out from Abuja today through an Ethiopian Airlines’ flight.
The Guardian learnt yesterday that the President of the Nigeria Olympics Committee (NOC), Engr. Habu Gumel departed yesterday for Brazil.
The first batch of athletes and some officials will leave today, while the Secretary General of the NOC, Tunde Popoola, is expected to lead another set of athletes and officials to Rio on Monday. It was not clear yesterday if the Sports Minister and other ministry officials will be part of the first batch that will jet out today.
Team Nigeria will participate in eight events in Rio. The events are the men’s football, basketball, boxing, weightlifting, canoeing, table tennis, wrestling and track and field.
Meanwhile, officials of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) have kept mute over the disqualification of the country’s women’s 4x400m by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
The disqualification has further diminished Nigeria’s medals prospect in the track and field in the Rio Olympics by one event.
A member of the Nigerian 4×400 relay quartet, Tosin Adeloye, tested positive to a banned substance at the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) Super Grand Prix/Warri Relays, which took place in Warri, Delta State on July 24, 2015.
The quartermiler was a member of the Nigerian quartet that placed fourth at the IAAF World Championship in Beijing last August.
Adeloye ran the third leg in the semifinals, where the team clocked 3:23.27 seconds, the second fastest time in Nigeria’s all-time 1600 relay record. She also ran the third leg in the final.
Other members of that Nigerian team include Regina George (first leg), Funke Oladoye (second leg) and Patience Okon-George, who anchored the team to place fourth.
Going by IAAF rule, all the results Adeloye achieved during the period after the test individually and jointly will be annulled. She has been banned for eight years.
The trio of Okon-George, Margaret Bamgbose and Omolara Omotosho, who have been picked by the AFN for the Games, may still be in Rio after meeting the qualification standard for the open 400m.
The IAAF has removed the times the Nigerian team ran in Beijing from the 2015 top list on its website.
Nigeria had qualified for the event based on the aggregate of the two fastest times achieved by the Okon-George’s led team in the qualification period from January last year to July this year.
Nigeria’s two fastest times (3:23.27 and 3:25.11) during the qualification period was achieved at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing, which gave an average of 3:24.19 that made Nigeria the ninth fastest nation in the event going to Brazil.
Nigeria’s two other fast times of 3:29.94 achieved in Durban last month and the 3:31.27A achieved in Nairobi in April 2015 will not place among the best 16 nations eligible to compete in Rio.
Some top AFN officials were still shocked by the development yesterday and no one was ready to speak to The Guardian on the issue.