While there seemed to be a medal drought for the Nigerian contingent at the London 2012 Olympics, an athlete with Nigerian background won medal for another country. It was a terrific moment for Christine Ijeoma Ohuruogu, a star athlete for Great Britain, when she won a silver medal in the Women’s 400 metres at the just concluded Olympics. For her, sprinting for Great Britain is a thing to cherish for the rest of her life. Ohuruogu who was born to Nigerian parents of Igbo extraction 28 years ago has competed for Great Britain at other international competitions like the Commonwealth and the last Beijing Olympics where she won gold medal.
Ohuruogu is not the only Nigerian-born athlete that competed for Great Britain at the Olympics. Others include James Dasaolu, born 1987 to Nigerian parents, Akintola and Abosede. He grew up in Loughborough, England. He represented Great Britain in 100 and 4x100m sprints. Lawrence Okoye is another athlete whose father is a Nigerian. He is an English track and field athlete who competed in the discus throw. The former rugby player deferred a place at Oxford University to concentrate on athletics. There was also Philips Olaosebikan Idowu who was born to Nigerian parents and grew up in Hackney, East London, and contested for Great Britain in triple jump.
Another British representative of Nigerian extraction at the London Olympics was Abiodun Adesola Oyepitan, born to Nigerian parents in 1979 in Westminster, London. Oyepitan competed in the 100 and 200 metres sprint. There is also Eniola Aluko who was born in Lagos but moved with her family to Britain at the age of one. Having resided in Britain for such a long time, Aluko chose to represent her country of residence at international level. She was a member of the English Olympic Women’s Football team.
Anthony Osezua Ogogo represented Britain in boxing, fought in the 75kg middleweight category. He was born to an English mother and Nigerian father. Other athletes with Nigerian background but who have chosen to carry the flag of the Queen’s country are Marilyn Chinwenwa Okoro in 4x400m race; Temi Fagbenle, 19, who represented England in the Women’s basketball; Anthony Joshua, boxing; Dami Bakare; and Peter Bakare who is in English men’s volleyball team. It is not clear whether both are related, but Dami was born in Kaduna State while Peter was born in London.
Other Nigerian-born athletes that decided to fly the flags of other European countries at the 2012 London Olympics include Danielle Alakija, the youngest athlete at the Olympics. She represented Fiji in the Women’s 400 and 200 metres. Andre Iguodala represented the United States in men’s basketball team that walloped the Nigerian basketball team. Another athlete is Ayodele Ikuesan who represented France in the 60 meters race. Switzerland also had the Nigerian-born Innocent Emeghara representing it in the football team at the Olympics.
The only contact most of these athletes had with their motherland at the Olympics was when they visited the Nigerian secretariat at the Games Village. Ohuruogu, for instance, admitted her Nigerian background when she said: “Yes, I am a Nigerian. My dad told me I am from Imo State. It’s incredible. I love Nigeria.” For Okoro, “I came to identify with my people. I wish you the best of luck in the Olympics.” They then asked many questions ranging from politics to sports and the general economic state of the nation. Ohuruogu asked specifically about the state of electricity in Nigeria: “Is there stable electricity in Nigeria now? I came around with my dad but we had to change our date of departure because I was scared of darkness.”
Perhaps if Nigeria could get its act together, it may yet attract many of these athletes in the diaspora to return home and fly the flag of their motherland.