Tobi Represents The Best Nigeria Has To Offer - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE

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Monday, July 25, 2022

Tobi Represents The Best Nigeria Has To Offer



| The Daily Crucible | Monday, July 25, 2022

By Wale Bakare 

The Unforgettable! Only one other time in sports have I felt anything close to the emotions that I felt as I watched the tears roll down the cheeks of Oluwatobiloba ‘Tobi’ Amusan! It was during the 4 x 100 meters relay final at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. The quartet of Mary Onyali, Beatrice Utondu, Christy Opara-Thompson and Faith Idehen, kitted in the iconic green uniform of the Nigerian athletics team, had been assigned Lane 4. Also on the tracks were women athletics powerhouses like the United States, Jamaica, France, The Unified Team (representing the recently dissolved Soviet Union) and a couple of others.

 Making the final was already some achievement by the Nigerian girls. I, and I am sure most other Nigerians watching, were deep in prayers that no one would drop the baton and if they were lucky, the girls would come in 4th or 5th place. At the end of 45 seconds, the Nigerian girls finished the race in 3rd place. That set the stage for what would go on to be one of the most iconic images in Olympic history: the expression of unfettered joy at achieving the impossible. You see, even though Faith Idehen had dipped across the line before the French girl on her left, the girls refused to allow themselves believe they had actually made the podium until the results were officially splashed across the screen. And then they exploded into an outburst of pure, unadulterated joy the type of which had hardly ever been seen at the Olympics. That moment would go on to be captured forever in one of the Olympics Movement’s most endearing promotional ads. The girls shed tears of joy. I also wiped off a drop or two.

Though Nigeria would go on to surpass this feat at the next Olympics in Atlanta, eclipsing Ghana’s Bronze medal in the football event 4 years earlier, and sending the whole nation into a paroxysm of ecstasy, the Gold medal in Long Jump won by Policewoman Chioma Ajunwa was probably more remarkable in my opinion. The thing was, hardly any Nigerian saw her win it. In fact, only followers of women’s football knew who she was as she had played for Nigeria in the Women’s World Cup 5 years earlier in China. She was actually the first Black African woman to be Olympic Champion in a field event. She set an African record of 7.12 meters which stood for 25 years until it was broken by Ese Brume, Silver medallist at the just concluded World Athletics Championship where Tobi once again brought me to tears. As she stood on the podium, flanked by her previous nemesis Camacho-Quinn of Puerto Rico and Anderson of Jamaica, the tears flowed down her cheeks, rivulets of patriotism at the sound of the national anthem. And she sang the words. A rarity amongst our elite athletes and most members of our National Assembly. Infusing into each syllable the hopes of 200 million people who are in dire need of a reason to hope at this point in time. She stood proud, erect, the first Nigerian World Champion and World record holder in athletics. Her tracksuit with the Nigeria badge hiding the shame of the mis-spelt name of the nation on her jersey, a symbol of the resilience of the  indomitable Nigerian spirit in the face of unimaginable self-harm. Who sends athletes to a World Championship with the name of the country mis-spelt on their uniform? Only a nation without hope in the athletes, one without shame, led by people with less shame. And as usual, there will be no consequences. 

Tobi represents the best Nigeria has to offer. She represents the future of this great country of dormant potential. She was not yet born when Mary Onyali and her team were making Nigerians shed tears of joy. She didn’t arrive until a full year after Chioma Ajunwa made history. But she is our future. She and all the other Tobi Amusans in all spheres of our national life. Those who dare to dream and still believe in the banner of a nation that has not always been there for them. But believe in her they do, nevertheless. Tobi was born and raised on the Nigeria air and water. Green and white blood is what runs in her veins even though she probably could have set this world record in the name of any country she chose in the world. Her tweet of November 2016 has turned out to be quite prophetic: “Unknown now but soon I will be unforgettable”. She is surely not going to be forgotten in a hurry!

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