The Rio Olympics started on Friday 5th August 2016 and so at Zikoko, we decided to take a trip down memory lane and chose 10 of the most memorable athletes Nigeria has had over the years!
1. Blessing Okagbare
Blessing is an Olympic and World Championships medalist in long jump, and a world medallist in the 200m. She has also won medals at the All Africa games, IAAF continental cup and the World Relays.
2. Hakeem Olajuwon
One of Nigeria’s greatest exports to the NBA, Hakeem played center for the Houston Rockets and then the Toronto Raptors from 1984 to 2002. In 1996, he was a part of the olympic gold medal – winning United States national team and was recently selected as one of the 50 Greatest players in the history of the NBA.
3. Augustine Azuka “Jay-Jay” Okocha
The former professional footballer became a favourite with Nigerians after his feats at the 1994 African Cup Of Nations and the 1996 Olympics.
4. Chioma Ajunwa
After suffering quite a few setbacks in her early career, Chioma became the first Nigerian to win an Olympic gold medal (during the 1996 Atlanta Games). After her sporting career, she joined the Nigerian Police Force.
5. Kanu Nwankwo
Kanu Nwankwo is one of Nigeria’s favourite football players. His career accolades include a UEFA Champions League medal, a UEFA Cup medal, three FA Cup Winners Medals, two African Player of the Year awards and an Olympic Medal.
6. Mary Onyali
Mary won the bronze medal in the 4 x 100m relay at the 1992 Olympic Games and in the 200m at the 1996 Olympic Games. She also won the 1994 Commonwealth Games 100 metres title. Her record at the All Africa Games is outstanding and includes Gold medals in the 100m (1991, 1995 and 2003) and 200m (1987, 1995 and 2003).
7. Rashidi Yekini
Rashidi was Nigeria’s record goal scorer with 37 goals in 58 appearances and even scored Nigeria’s first goal in a World Cup in 1994. He also topped the goal charts in the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations and was named best player of the competition.
8. Vincent Enyeama
A member of Nigeria’s national team from 2002 -2015, Vincent served as the captain of the team from 2013 till he retired from international football in 2015. He is Nigeria’s most capped player of all time, with 101 international caps.
9. Segun Toriola
A professional table tennis player, he has been ranked as Nigeria’s best player since 2005 and Africa’s best player since 2009. His accolades include; 4 African Table Tennis Singles Championships (1998, 2002, 2004, 2006), 2 African Table Tennis Doubles Championships (1992, 1994), a Commonwealth Singles Championship (2002), 4 All African Games Singles Gold Medals (1995, 1999, 2003, 2007) and many others.
10. Stephen Keshi
A former player and National team coach, the late, great Stephen Keshi’s popularity soared when he led the Nigerian national team to victory during the 2013 African Cup of Nations.