Again, Paralympians to the Rescue

first_imgThe 2016 Paralympic Games ended Sunday night in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with Team Nigeria’s Paralympians rescuing the country once again as it happened in London four years ago. DURO IKHAZUAGBE writesJust like it happened four years ago, Team Nigeria’s special athletes to the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil have done it again! They have again removed shame from us as a country. Coming on the heel of a dismal performance at the 2016 Olympic Games where all we have to show is the bronze medal won by the John Mikel Obi inspired Dream Team VI, our paralympians achieved an all-time best performance of eight gold, two silver and two bronze medals. Nigeria finished overall 17th out of the 83 countries that made it to the medals table.Power-lifters: Lucy Ejike, Paul Kehinde, Roland Ezuruike, Bose Omolayo, Josephine Orji and Ndidi Nwosu were on top of their various categories. Flora Ugwunwa and petit Lauritta Onye straddled the javelin and shot put events to also add two precious gold medals to the six won by the power-lifter. Ezuruike won Nigeria’s first gold in Rio. Ejike broke the Paralympic and world record three successive times, to win the women’s -61kg event. Her successful attempt at 136.kg set a new Paralympic and world records. Ejike went on to set a bigger mark of 138kg, before lifting a massive 142kg to pick the gold. Kehinde in the -65kg men’s category lifted 218kg to beat his rivals to the gold medal. Omolayo broke her world record to set a new one with 138kg lift to also win gold medal.Orji’s gold in the women’s -+86kg power-lifting event was full of drama. She entered the contest with 151kg lift, a weight that was far beyond the capacity of any other competitor in her category. The only other lifter who came close to her effrontery, Egypt’s Nadya Ali failed in all her three attempts to lift 145kg. Orji lifted 154kg to set a new world record.Ugwunwa won the women’s javelin throw – F53/54 event and the gold. With a throw of 20.25m, Ugwunwa set a new world record to beat Tunisia’s Hania Aidi and South Africa’s Ntombizanele Situ to second and third places respectively. Onye on the other hand, competing in the women’s shot put f40 event on the Day-four of the Rio Paralympics, first heaved 7.83m that saw her shatter her world record of 7.72m set at the IPC World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar in 2015. Onye’s fourth attempt of 8.40m sent secured the fifth gold medal for Team Nigeria. Nwosu on the other hand defeated the defending champion to win women’s -73kg Power-lifting event gold medal.Nwosu was set for the bronze medal before the Nigerian lady stepped up in her very last attempt, lifting 140kg to equal the Paralympics Record and usurp France’s Souhad Ghazouani for the gold.The feat of the paralympians was achieved through the ‘I Can Do it’ Nigerian spirit. It was not because they were granted the right conditioning by those saddled with running Nigerian sports.But for a country of over 170 million people, gold medal winner at previous Games (Atlanta ’96 and Sydney 2000), the outing in Brazil was bad news for the Olympians. Certainly not for the paralympians who are our heroes and heroines at the moment.So much hope was placed on Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor to deliver in track and field’s sprint and long jump. Same goes for Daniel Igali and his wrestlers. Medal of any colour was going to be a bonus from Nigeria’s lone qualifier in boxing, Efe Ajagba. Of course, Aruna Quadri and Segun Toriola who led the table tennis team where clearly ranked outsiders before the Games began due to their world rankings. Aruna’s unfortunate quarter final pairing with world Number 1, Ma Long of China, was certainly no good news for the 2014 ITTF Star Player.Yet, Nigerians were hoping for miracles to happen. Why not? After all, Chioma Ajunwa was not favourite for any medal in Atlanta ’96 long jump but ended up with the ultimate gold medal. But by the time those who had prepared for four years began to compete against Team Nigeria athletes, no one needed to be told that our chances of making the podium and be counted amongst gold medalists was going to be a mirage.And so, Okagbare failed to make the final of both 100m and 200m. The long jump that would have been her best chance for a medal, she skipped it for the longer sprint because both events clashed. Not even Tosin Oke and Doreen Amata who are in top brackets of the men’s triple jump and women’s high jump could make the final of their respective events. Unlike at the London Games where Nigeria made finals of no less than six events of the track and field, Rio2016 was a mission impossible. Save youngster Divine Oduduru who showed brilliance in the 200m, reaching the semi final in his first Olympic appearance, there certainly was nothing to cheer from athletics.Is anyone surprised that Nigeria failed in Brazil? To discerning followers of the country’s sports, there couldn’t have been better news for Team Nigeria beyond the bronze. Four years after former President Goodluck Jonathan conveyed a Presidential Summit on Sports in Abuja to review why Nigeria failed at London 2012, nothing came out of that jaw jaw, that had the best of the country’s sports technocrats present papers on the way forward.Instead of putting into action all that were articulated at that summit to ensure that Rio2016 became a turning-point, the sport sector was ignored. Other countries who valued the Games gave their preparations the desired fillip needed to excel. Great Britain for instance that was behind Nigeria on the medals table at Atlanta ’96 consolidated on the programme it initiated ahead of hosting the 2012 edition. Is anyone surprised that Team Great Britain upstaged China to emerge the second best team at Rio2016 winning 27 gold 23 silver and 17 bronze medals? Their athletes have also carried the new form into the paralympic, finishing second behind China with 64 gold, 30 silver and 44 bronze medals.Of course, sports loving Nigerians who were made to go through the stress of staying up all night to watch Team Nigeria perform at Rio2016 are up in arms against those saddled with the running of the country’s sports. Dalung who appears to lack the direction to lead Nigeria’s sports sector is blaming everyone but himself for the poor outing.Are we expecting to see any change at the next Games in Tokyo Japan in 2020? It is very doubtful. Nothing is going to change with the way we are carrying on the business of sports in the country. Until we begin to treat sports like business and not mere leisure, Team Nigeria will always attend the Olympic, merely to add up the number. No serious country will treat her country’s preparation for the Games the way we did ahead of Rio2016. There was no preparation of any sort both locally and abroad. The story of the Under-23 football team who went to Atlanta, USA as part of their preparation for the Games in Brazil is now all too familiar.That the Dream Team won the bronze in the football event was not because Nigeria adequately prepared for it. Rather, it was the sheer determination of the boys (and Coach Samson Siasia) to succeed. How the boys were left stranded without funds by the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports is well known to all. Of course, the Olympic is no FIFA event and so cash-strapped Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) cannot be blamed for the hell the Dream Team VI went through to achieve the bronze medal finish. It took the intervention of Mikel twice to bail out the team from cash embarrassment. Even after being stranded in Atlanta with the prospect of missing its first group game against Japan looming, it took the intervention of America airliner, Delta Air, to come to its rescue. The Chelsea star again came on to rescue the team ahead of its second game.As if to tell Nigerians that we should learn to appreciate what we have, it took a Japanese plastic surgeon Katsuya Takasu to show appreciation to the Dream Team, handing out a hefty $390,000 reward to the boys. To date, no other person, (corporate or individual) has come out to reward the boys for the lone bronze brought home by the team. That goes to show the mere lip service we all have been paying to sports development. Yet, we all want to see Team Nigeria win gold medals with no motivation.In four years time, it will not surprise followers of Nigerian sport if we return from Japan empty handed in the Olympic and only have to take consolation in the paralympians salvaging the situation again as they have done again in Brazil. We hardly ever learn from history.FINAL PARALYMPIC TABLEShare this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegramlast_img read more

Djokovic, Murray Fight for World Number One in London Final

first_img“I didn’t expect to play a long one with someone with a serve like Milos,” said Murray. “I’m tired. I’ve played so much tennis over the last few months. I’ll give it my best effort – the best of what I have.”Murray was yelling at himself and 17,000 spectators were screaming with every twist and turn before he finally prevailed in an extraordinary contest. He twice failed to serve out the match as the clock ticked past three hours in the final set, and three match points then slipped by in the tie-break.“It was an amazing atmosphere,” added Murray. “The longer the match went on, the louder the crowd got. This is what we play for. Matches like this and arenas like this. This is one of hardest matches I’ve played indoors.”Murray and Djokovic’s unprecedented clash for pole position will end with one of the old rivals finishing the year on top of the world after the Scot shattered his rival’s 122-week reign at number one earlier this month.Fittingly, they will bring the curtain down on the ATP season with both the prestigious Tour Finals title and the top spot up for grabs in today’s final at London’s O2 Arena.Murray is just one win away from capping a dream year in perfect fashion. But Djokovic can say exactly the same after the defending champion thrashed Japan’s Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-1 in the other semi.Djokovic, who has a 24-10 lead in his head to head with Murray, said: “This is one of the biggest matches we will ever play against each other. The match everybody anticipated. This has never happened in the history of tennis. I’m privileged to be part of history.“My level had been going in the right direction. Now it’s coming up to the last match of the year. I hope we get a great final.”Crucially, Murray might be on his last legs after having to survive a three-hour 39-minute epic against Raonic that ranked as the longest match in Tour Finals history — eclipsing the record mark set when Murray beat Nishikori in three hours and 20 minutes on Wednesday.While Murray’s body has been pushed to its limits this week, Djokovic has enjoyed smooth progress to the final and, unlike his opponent, the world number two will be well rested following his 67-minute demolition of Nishikori.Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegram Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic will fight to finish as year-end world number one in today’s final of the ATP World Tour Finals in London. The Briton, 29, beat Milos Raonic in a gripping semi-final 5-7 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (11-9) in three hours and 38 minutes to reach his first season-ending final. Djokovic swept past Kei Nishikori 6-1 6-1 in his last four encounter.The winner will end the year top of the world rankings, the first time the battle for the top spot has been fought in the final match of the season.Murray’s earlier victory over Canadian fourth seed Raonic extended the Scot’s winning streak to a career-best 23 matches, stretching back to September. It was Murray’s second lengthy encounter in four days.last_img read more

Turnovers plaguing UW as road trip to PSU arrives

first_imgAfter dropping two straight, the schedule certainly isn’t lightening up for the Wisconsin women’s basketball team as it travels to State College, Pa., Thursday night to face the No. 18/21 Penn State Nittany Lions.Monday saw Wisconsin fall to No. 10/11 Ohio State in Columbus, in a game that remained competitive for much of the second half, largely due to the Badgers’ hot shooting from beyond the arc. Although UW emerged with another loss, the performance against one of the conference’s most talented squads left the Badgers with a renewed confidence in their shot.Despite their impressive shooting – including sinking a school record 12 three-pointers – turnovers mauled any chance at a comeback.“Our shooting is good; we just have to shore up some other areas – don’t turn the ball over, and understand our defensive assignments,” Wisconsin head coach Bobbie Kelsey said. “That’s what’s hurting us right now, people just not recognizing who’s doing what on who; that takes a lot of concentration.”Handing the ball over to the Buckeyes 22 times was UW’s highest turnover total since Dec. 23, and players and coaches alike said the turnovers were of a different variety than those that plagued the team earlier this year. At the start of the season, the adjustment to Kelsey’s fast-paced offensive system led to mistakes that offered the opponent extra possessions, but the turnovers at the Value City Arena came as a result of sloppy ball-handling and miscommunication.When Wisconsin last shared the court with Penn State, the Nittany Lions routed the Badgers by 33 points as they shot better than 52 percent from the field and knocked in 36.4 percent of their shots from three-point land. As UW looks for redemption on the road, it understands victory can’t come without slowing down PSU’s talented backcourt.“Last time we played them, they really got a lot of whatever they wanted off the dribble and they were able to create shots for each other as a guard group,” sophomore guard Morgan Paige said. “We have improved in the one-on-one containment a little bit, so hopefully that comes through in play.”A trio of guards power the Nittany Lions’ attack, with young sophomore Maggie Lucas leading the team with 19.6 points per game. A sharpshooter who sinks 45.2 percent of her shots from the floor and 41.7 percent from beyond the arc, Lucas is the foundation of Penn State’s dangerous offense.The Nittany Lions proved in their first game against Wisconsin that if their offense can push the ball down the floor, it can quickly take over the game.“We got to stop them in transition first of all. They run, they get that ball out quick, and they are gone,” Kelsey said. “If you’re not back and matched up, they’re going to score. The three-point line, they’ll spot up, or they’ll run the post right to the block … so that’s half the battle right there.”Although PSU’s guards often grab the headlines, the Nittany Lions also boast a serious post presence in junior forward Nikki Greene. Grabbing a team-high 8.1 rebounds per game and also scoring 9.7 points per, Greene poses a serious challenge for a Badger squad that is still without its top post player, Anya Covington.Covington, who has missed two straight games due to an illness, has put the pressure on fellow forwards Ashley Thomas and Cassie Rochel to prove they can help fill the senior’s strong defensive presence and consistent scoring. In its recent loss to Ohio State, Wisconsin’s shooting kept the Cardinal and White in the game, but an inside-out game will be essential to picking up a victory against the No. 3 squad in the Big Ten.As the Badgers continue to play through a stretch that includes matchups with three ranked teams in four games, all on the road, players point out the schedule would be even more difficult earlier in the year. While pleased with the progress it has made, Wisconsin understands it needs the ‘W’ to regain momentum.“I’m glad we face these teams at the end, because I think we’ve come a long way from where we have been in the beginning of the season,” Rochel said. “Anything that we faced in the beginning, I think we’ve really come a long way since then. We’re a different team now and we continue to get better and better.”last_img read more

Arsenal-target Aubameyang starts for Dortmund

first_imgShare on: WhatsApp With the January transfer window to close at midnight (2300 GMT) on Wednesday, time is running out for the deal to be completed.The Gunners want to sign a striker to replace Alexis Sanchez who joined Manchester United last week.Aubameyang has scored 141 goals in 212 games for Dortmund in all competitions since his arrival in 2013.Dortmund are seventh in the German league after drawing both of their last two games, goalless at home to Wolfsburg and 1-1 away to Hertha Berlin, without Aubameyang. Berlin, Germany | AFP |  Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was recalled to Borussia Dortmund’s starting line-up on Saturday despite the on-going speculation of a move to Arsenal.The target-man was included for Dortmund at home to Freiburg, his first Bundesliga appearance since December 16 having been dropped for Dortmund’s last two games.He started as striker with English teenager Jadon Sancho, 17, on the left wing and US international Christian Pulisic, 19, on the right.Dortmund have reportedly rejected a second bid by Arsenal of 58 million euros ($72m) with the German club thought to be holding out for 70 million euros for their top-scorer.“We have a clear position,” said Dortmund’s director of sport Michael Zorc before kick-off.“Our demands must be met and so far Arsenal’s attempts have not matched them.”last_img read more

Hawks edge Leafs 2-1 to close in on Murdoch Division leaders

first_imgBeaver Valley opened the scoring in the first period when Bradley Ross beat Quinn Yeager in the Nelson nets 14 minutes into the frame.The visitors doubled the lead in the second when Aidan Browell scored less than two minutes into the period.Beaver Valley maintained its lead until Logan Wullum gave Nelson some life with a shorthanded tally early in the third period.Nelson pressed for the equalizer, out shooting Beaver Valley 8-6 in the period but was unable to score on 6’3” netminder Owen Sikkes in the Hawks net.Beaver Valley out shot Nelson 24-20 in the contest.Both teams return to the ice Saturday.Beaver Valley hosts Golden Rockets while Spokane Braves pay a visit to the NDCC Arena to face the Leafs.In other Murdoch action, Fernie travels to Castlegar and Kimberley is in Grand Forks to face the Bruins. It appears there’s not a lot to choose from between the Nelson Leafs and the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.The two Murdoch rivals played another tight contest Friday night in the Heritage City, this time Beaver Valley coming out on top with a 2-1 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League victory at the NDCC Arena.The two clubs opened the season with the Leafs escaping with a 1-0 win — both games were played in Nelson.The victory moves the Hawks to within two points of the Murdoch Division-leading Leafs, which saw an end to a four-game winning streak.Nelson, dropping its second game of the season, is currently tied for top spot with the Grand Fork Border Bruins.The Bruins scored three times in the third period to outlast Golden 7-4.last_img read more