President Muhammadu Buhari has promised a grand reception for Team Nigeria’s athletes to the just-concluded Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, when they return to the country.
Nigeria recorded an unprecedented performance, winning 12 gold, nine silver and 14 bronze medals to end as the seventh best team at the competition and also achieve its best ever performance at the Games.
Speaking to the team ahead of their departure for Nigeria, yesterday, Youth and Sports Development Minister, Sunday Dare, said a grateful country is planning a grand reception for them, adding that President Buhari is waiting to fete them.
Dare praised the athletes for bringing glory to the country, saying: “I followed every moment of your competition. I was in Birmingham from the beginning till I had to leave for other official engagements. So many Nigerians followed you too. We are all so proud of what you achieved for Nigeria and yourselves.
“Mr. President is also very proud of you and has approved that a presidential reception be held to honour you for the historic feat at Birmingham 2022.
“We will immediately start to plan for the reception and once we have tightened things up, we will announce the date, invite you over from your different bases and you will have that privilege of meeting Mr. President.
“The gold medal haul is the highest at a single Commonwealth Games for Team Nigeria, representing its best performance ever,” he said.
Dare, who described this year’s performance as excellent, inspirational, phenomenal, commendable and commanding, noted that the impressive outing earned Team Nigeria number seven position on the medals table, and also the best ranked African country in the Games.
“This is a performance like no other, many new records were set, old records broken, long standing jinxes of not getting on the podium in some sports were destroyed,” the minister said.
Earlier in a congratulatory message, Buhari told the athletes that he joined millions of other sports loving Nigerians to watch some of the colourful and spectacular moments, which resulted in the harvest of 35 medals.
He said: “I salute the memorable display of Team Nigeria athletes and I commend the 94 worthy ambassadors that proudly flew the Nigerian flag in nine sporting events for those exciting moments when the medalists brought smiles to our faces by breaking world, national and games records, as well as achieving personal bests in their career.”
The president praised Nigerian women for being at the forefront of bringing honour to the country. He added: “it is noteworthy that majority of the medals, including 12 gold for the country, were championed by our talented young women and girls. They include multimedalist Tobi Amusan (100m Women’s Hurdle and 4x100m Relay), Favour Ofili, Rosemary Chukwuma, Grace Nwokocha (4x100m Relay); Miesinnei Mercy Genesis (50 kg), Blessing Oborududu (57 kg) and Odunayo Adekuoroye (57kg) in Women’s Freestyle wrestling; as well as Adijat Adenike Olarinoye (55kg) and Rafiatu Folashade Lawal (59kg) in Women’s weightlifting.”
He also mentioned other gold medallists, including Folashade Oluwafemiayo, Women’s heavyweight Para Powerlifting, Eucharia Iyiazi, Women’s shot put, Chioma Onyekwere and Goodness Nwachukwu in Women’s Discus throw, and Ese Brume, long jump.
The president said: “This is a special moment and a fitting parting gift, being my last Commonwealth Games as Head of State.”
He also lauded the leadership and top management staff of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, coaching crew and team officials, for the passion towards ensuring the development of sports in the country. He assured that history would remember them for all their contributions in making athletes shine in the international arena.
The 11-day Commonwealth Games had over 5,000 athletes, representing 72 nations and territories in 280 medals events.
MEANWHILE, Team Nigeria athletes and their officials could return to the country to a shower of dollars from a grateful country, as some sports lovers have started promising to reward them for making the country proud.
One of such sports enthusiasts is Group Chief Executive of Oando Plc, Wale Tinubu, who has announced that his company will give cash rewards to all Team Nigeria medallists at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Tinubu promised to match the rewards already given to the athletes by the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development for each medal won at the Games. At the Games, the Sports Ministry gave each gold medallist $5, 000, silver medallist $3, 000 and bronze medallists $2, 000.