Who is Nigeria’s greatest track and field athlete of all time based on Olympic Games performances?
To many followers of the sport in Nigeria, the question shouldn’t be a difficult one to answer. But that still hasn’t answered the question and this is what Complete Sports’ Dare Esan attempts to provide an answer that should be acceptable to all.
In doing that, I have used not just the weighted total medal count of each male and female athlete, but also the quality of the medals won and final appearances to rank their overall performance.
The number of relay medals won will only count where there is a tie among athletes who have won individual medals at the quadrennial games.
Like in all games, the ranking order will first be based on the number of gold medals won, then silver and bronze will follow in that order. Where there is a tie,the relay medals won will come into play. If there is still a tie,the records set and number of final appearances will follow to determine the greatest and those in the top list.
If we agree with this ranking system,then it will be pretty easy to determine who the greatest man or woman is and who makes the top list in order of performance.
MEN: Relay Medallists
Davidson is one of the finest sprinters Nigeria has ever seen but failed to live up to expectations by missing out of an individual medal at the Olympics.His best effort at the games was the silver medal he won as a member of the 4x100m relay team to the Games in 1992 in Barcelona.He however made it to the final twice in the 100m,finishing 6th in Atlanta in 1996 and 8th in Barcelona 1992.
Like Davidson,Olapade did not make the fact that he is the first Nigerian to legally race inside 10 seconds count as he was unable to mount the greatest athletics podium in the world as an individual Olympic medallist.The closest he came was his 5th place finish in the 200m and 6th place finish in the 100m at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.He however remain the first
Nigerian to run in three finals in the history of the games following his silver-medal winning feat as a member of the 4x100m relay team at the same Games.
The first of only two Nigerian men to win an individual medal at the World Championships, Innocent looked very innocent at the
Olympics as he failed to race to the podium in an individual event.His best effort was his 5th place finish in the 400m at the Seoul,South Korea Olympics in 1988,a marked improvement on his 7th place finish four years earlier in Los Angeles.
He was however a medallist in the 4x400m relay team where he made history as the first Nigerian relay team to win a medal at the Olympics following the bronze medal won at the Los Angeles,USA Olympics in 1984.He also ran in one more final in the 1600 relay,finishing 7th in Seoul in 1988. Oluyemi Kayode.
Now late,Kayode was a member of the 4x100m relay team that won a silver medal at the Olympic Games in 1992.He was also the second of two Nigerians to run in the final of the 200m event at the same Games,finishing seventh,just one place behind compatriot, Olopade Adeniken.
Uti is on record as the first Nigerian 400m runner to run a sub-45 seconds in the event.He achieved this at the Los Angeles .
Olympics in 1984 where he ran inside 45 seconds twice.First was at the semi-final stage where he ran 44.83 to come second
behind Cote D’Ivoire’s Gabriel Tiacoh to qualify for his first and only individual event final at the games.He proved to be the better of the two Nigerians in the final,running 44.93 seconds to finish 6th ahead of Innocent Egbunike who ran 45.35 seconds to place seventh.
Uti however made it to the podium at the same Games in the 4x400m event,running the opening leg before Egbunike anchored the team to a bronze medal finish.
The hero of Nigeria’s 4x400m gold-winning team at the Sydney 2000 Olympics,Enee would go on to anchor the team to another podium appearance four years later in Athens,Greece where the team returned home with a bronze
Unfortunately, Enee’s impressive feats were achieved with the help of others albeit he remains the only Nigerian to win two relay medals in the history of the games.
The late Bada was undoubtedly the most decorated Nigerian male athlete and one of only two to be crowned a world champion at the World Championship series but he failed to transfer his individual medal winning spree in other global events to the Olympics.
Although his best effort fetched an Olympic gold, it was not achieved through his own efforts alone .Bada however ran in two Olympic relay finals as he was a member of the 4x400m team that finished fifth at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.
African 400m champion in 1998,Chukwu,like Bada didn’t run in any individual event final at the games.His best effort,also like Bada fetched a relay gold medal at the Olympic Games in Sydney,Australia in 2000.
Jude showed plenty of promise but failed to deliver at the big stage.He failed to race beyond the quarterfinals in the individual 400m race,actually finishing last in his heat.He however made it up in the team event,running the second leg in the 4x400m relay team that finished first (after the disqualification of the USA for doping reasons) in Sydney in 2000.
Still regarded by some as Nigeria’s finest sprinter of all time,Chidi failed to make his impressive runs in the 1980s and 1990s count as he failed to race beyond the semi-final at the Olympics (1988 and 1992).He was however lucky to make the podium via the 4x100m relay where he picked a silver medal at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.
World Athletics’ World (Continental) Cup champion in 2002 in Madrid,Spain,the Agulu-born Emedolu failed to make it to the final of the sprint events at the Olympics.He was however a member of the 4x100m bronze winning relay team at the Games in 2004 in Athens,Greece.
Fasuba holds the African record in the 100m (9.85) but failed to race to the podium as an individual medallist at the Olympics.bThe Ekiti state-born athlete’s best perormance came in a team event,the 4x100m where he won a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
Sprinter Egbele’s only notable performance at the Olympics was his 4x100m relay bronze he won at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.
A year after he ran his first sub-10 seconds in the 100m on his way to winning the 100m gold at the 2003 African Games,Deji failed to transfer his new found form to the Olympics Games in 2004 as he couldn’t race beyond the quarterfinal in
the 100m.He however didn’t leave Athens empty-handed as he anchored the 4x100m relay team to a bronze medal finish.
One of only eight Nigerian men to break 45 seconds in the 400m,Godday was a member of Nigeria’s 4x400m team to the Olympic Games in Athens,Greece in 2004.He ran the opening leg in the team Enefiok Udobong anchored to a bronze medal finish.
Saul is the ninth fastest 400m runner in the Nigerian all-time list and made a memorable debut at the Olympics in 2004 where he raced all the way to the semi-finals before crashing out.He however left Athens,Greece in 2004 with an Olympic medal albeit it came in the 4x400m relay event.
Moses is a two-time Olympian who raced to the podium in his debut at the games in 1984 as a member of the bronze medal winning 4x400m team.He was also at the next edition in Seoul,South Korea where he finished seventh with the 4x400m team in the final.
WOMEN: Individual Medallists
Unarguably Nigeria’s greatest performer at the Olympics,Chioma made history as the first black woman to win a field event gold at the Olympics courtesy her feat at the Long Jump pit at the Olympic Stadium in Atlanta where her African record setting 7.12m leap fetched a first ever and so far ONLY individual Olmpic gold by a Nigerian.
Chioma also made it to the final at the same Olympics in the 4x100m,running the opening leg for the Nigerian relay team that finished fifth.
Unarguably the greatest and most decorated 400m runner Nigeria has ever produced,Fali,as she is fondly called anchored the Nigerian 4x400m relay team to an impressive silver medal finish at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.Days earlier,she had made history as the first Nigerian track and field athlete to win an individual medal at the Olympics following her 400m bronze-medal win in an African record shattering fashion (49.10).She also became in the process the first and only Nigerian track and field athlete to win two medals at the same Olympics.
Fali also anchored the team to a 4th place finish four years later in Sydney and failed to make it two back-to-back individual medal win as she finished seventh in the 400m final in Sydney. .
Blessing ran and jumped in three Olympics but it was in her debut she made her greatest impact.She won a fortuitous silver medal in the long jump in her debut in 2008 in Beijing.Since then,she has made four other finals,finishing 4th and 7th in the 4x100m event in 2012 (London) and 2016 (Rio,Brazil) respectively.She also ran in her ONLY 100m final at the London Olympics, finishing last (eighth).
Petite sprint hurdler,Glory raced to the podium in mourning mood at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.She lost her fiance,Hyginus Anugo on the street of Sydney to an hit and run car barely days to the start of the games but the 1999 IAAF World Championships 100m hurdles silver medallist summoned up an uncommon courage to race to another silver medal finish to become the first Nigerian,man or woman to win individual medals at both the IAAF World Championships and the Olympics.Not done,Glory was also in the 4x100m relay team that finished 6th at the Games Down Under.
Onyali has ran in more Olympic finals than any other Nigerian.She ran in five Olympics and made the finals in three viz Barcelona (1992),Atlanta (1996) and sydney (2000).In Barcelona she anchored the Nigerian 4x100m relay team to a bronze medal finish.She also made it to her first 100m final at the Games,finishing seventh.
In Atlanta,she raced to make the podium in the 200m,her first and only individual medal in the history of the games.She won a bronze medal in the half lap race and placed seventh in the 100m.
Nkem was also a finalist in the 4x100m at the games in Sydney where she ancored the team to a sixth-place finish.
WOMEN: Relay Medallists
Former Nigeria 100m queen,Osayomi ran in three relay finals at three Olympic Games.She made her debut in Beijing, China in 2008 and achored the 4x100m to a silver medal finish.The team originally finished fifth but with doping suspensions and lane violations got elevated to silver a few years later.She was also in London in 2012 where the team finished fourth and then in Athens, Greece in 2004 where the team finished seventh.
Christy- OPARA THOMPON
Long jumper cum sprinter,Opara-Thompson ran in two 4x100m finals,finishing third in 1992 in Barcelona where she ran the third leg and 5th in Atlanta,USA where she also ran the third leg.She was one of three Nigerian sprinters that ran all the way to the semi-finals of the 100m event in 1992 with only Onyali scaling to the final.
Faith was just a member of the 4x100m relay to the Barcelona Olympics as she didn’t qualify to run in any of the individual
events but she made her presence count at the Estadio Olímpico where she ran the second leg in the team’s historic run to the finish line and the podium.
Utondu ran the opening leg for the 4x100m team which made history at the 1992 Olympic Games as the first Nigerian nay African 4x100m relay team to make it to the podium at the Games.The team finished third in the only final Utondu participated in at the Olympics.
She may have crashed out of the individual 100m race in the first round at the Beijing Olympics in the summer of 2008 , but Franca,who surprisingly failed to make the podium in the winter of 2008 in the 60m final after running the fastest time (7.10 seconds) in qualifying for the final,led the 4x100m team out for the final of the 4x100m.The team raced to a silver medal finish.
Former Nigeria U-15 100m record holder, Kemasuode is an Olympic silver medallist.She ran the second leg in the 4x100m team that raced home second at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing,China.
The first Nigerian 400m runner to break 50 seconds in the event,Charity was in the 4x400m team that won a silver medal at the Olympic Games in 1996 in a new 3:21.04 seconds African record. She ran the third leg in that race,collecting the baton in first position from the very impressive Fatimah Yusuf before handing it to anchor leg runner,Falilat Ogunkoya in second position. Opara was also in the team that finished fourth four years later in Sydney,Australia.
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