While speaking in his office in Yenagoa, Hon. Igali, who is also the Sports Commissioner in Bayelsa State, added that the wrestlers, who won lots of laurels at both continental and global championships this year for Nigeria, have performed incredibly well and deserve commendation.
“I think till date, the performances of the Nigerian wrestling team this year were probably the most outstanding of the past seven, eight years,” he said.
“Starting from the African Championships (in Tunisia) where, again, our women became overall African champions for the 7th time in a row, and then, looking at the 12th African Games (in Morocco), where we again dominated not only as a female team, but as the overall best team in Africa in female wrestling, male wrestling and Greco Roman by coming home with 7 gold medals.
“Then to the World Championships (in Kazakhstan) this year, where we qualified Odunayo Adekuoroye (57kg) for the Olympics by winning a bronze medal; a historic bronze medal. She’s, without a doubt, become the measuring rod in Nigeria Wrestling Federation, winning three medals within four years at the World Championships. That is outstanding, and you can’t really take anything away from her.
“Blessing Oborududu (68kg) at the same competition (at the World Championships in Kazakhstan) was just one placing away from qualifying for the Olympics. She placed 7th instead of 6th.
“And Mercy Genesis (50kg) won a silver medal at the World Beach Games (in Doha), while Blessing Onyebuchi (+70kg) became our world champion in Beach wrestling by winning a gold medal. And those were the two medals Nigeria won out of the team that was presented.”
Still reflecting on the achievements of the wrestlers this year, the Olympic and world champion added that it will be difficult to surpass their feat considering the lean budget the federation operates on.
“As we speak, we have two athletes ranked in the top 4 in the world,” he noted. “Blessing Oborududu (68kg) is No. 4 and Adekuoroye Odunayo (57kg) is No. 2 in the world.
“And I doubt if there is any other sport, outside of Paralympic sports, that has two athletes ranked in the top 4 in the world.
“Those are just the competitions that have come off the top of my head. If we are to look at the Grand Prix (ranking) tournaments we had in Germany and Bulgaria, where we had our athletes win international medals, that goes to tell me that we had a very good season. A season that will be hard to replicate, especially when you compare the level of funding we have against what we’re able to achieve as a federation.
“So, looking back, I will say this is a very good year for Nigerian wrestling,” the vice president of the Commonwealth Wrestling Board concluded.