Men take backseat as female athletes reign supreme

First, it began with “what a man can do, a woman can try.”

Then it became “what a man can do, a woman can do as well.” And then again it turned, “what a man can do a woman can do better.”

But today the saying goes, “what a man can do, a woman can overdo.”

Nigeria’s women’s athletes are a glaring confirmation of the latest coinage of the adage, going by their phenomenal performances over the years.

Aside from the recent achievement of the country’s men’s U-17 and U-20 teams at the WAFU-B tournament, it’s been six years since the country’s male athletes put a smile on the faces of Nigerians at international competitions.

That was when the Samson Siasia-led U-23 side claimed bronze medal, beating Honduras 3-2 in the men’s football third-place match at the Rio Olympics in Brazil.

The performances of the Nigerian male athletes have been nothing short of a disappointment compared to that of the women, confirming the popular saying of Chilean writer Isabel Allende, “a man does what he can; a woman does what a man cannot.”

In the past, Nigerians often looked up to male athletes for medals at global events. And they did. But over the years the tide has turned, with the women now fully in charge.

Below, we take a look at the outstanding performances of the country’s women athletes…

Tobi Amusan: Rave of the moment Amusan is the world record holder in the women’s 100m hurdles after a record finish of 12.06secs in the final on Monday to become the first Nigerian world champion ever, beating favourite Jamaica’s Britany Anderson (12.23secs) and Olympic champion Jasmine Camacho-Quinn (Puerto Rico), who also finished in 12.23secs.

Despite several missed chances in previous global championships, the Ijebu Ode-born athlete had been an African and Commonwealth champion, before her biggest feat in Oregon.

In 2015, while making her African Games debut as an 18-year-old, she also won the gold medal in the 100m hurdles.

At the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, she breezed past 2015 world champion Danielle Williams to shockingly claim the gold and ever since, she hasn’t looked back.

Ese Brume: The ever-consistent long jumper more than any other Nigerian deserves a medal. The 26-year-old had never failed Nigerians and has always represented the country very well.

Brume finished finished second in the long jump in Oregon, behind German Olympic champion Malaika Mihambo, who won gold with a final leap of 7.12 metres.

The 26-year-old had been by far Nigeria’s most consistent athlete at the global championships in the last three years, winning bronze medals at the 2019 World Championship and Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The Ughelli-born athlete boasts of 16 medals in her cabinet, from different international competitions, a feat no Nigerian male athlete can boast of.

Asisat Oshoala: The Super Falcons striker is the record holder for the most CAF best player award wins (male and female) having recently scooped the women’s best player award for a record fifth time.

Oshoala last Thursday beat Zambia’s Grace Chanda and Ajara Nchout Njoya of Cameroon to claim the CAF Women’s Player of The Year Award, overtaking legendary countrywoman Perpetua Nkwocha, who has won the award on four occasions.

For the men, it’s been 23 years since a Nigerian won the award, with Nwankwo Kanu last winning it in 1999.

Blessing Oborududu: The freestyle wrestler is currently ranked the world’s number two woman wrestler and the first Nigerian wrestler to win an Olympic medal.

The phenomenal wrestler, often regarded as one of the greatest of all time, has won a gold medal at the African Wrestling Championships every year for the last 11 years, except for 2012, when she did not enter for the competition.

She is also a 10-time African champion from 2010 to 2020, with some of her recent achievements including winning gold in the 68kg event at the Yasar Dogu Tournament in Istanbul, Turkey this year.

She followed that up with another gold medal at the 2022 African Wrestling Championships held in El Jadida, Morocco.

Falcons/Falconets/Flamingos: While the Falcons fourth-place finish at the just-concluded Women’s Africa Cup of Nations Cup in Morocco may have come as a disappointment to some, there is no doubt that they are still miles ahead their male counterparts in terms of achievements.

Without their key striker, Oshoala, the Falcons did manage to get the job done by booking a place at next year’s World Cup, something the Eagles couldn’t achieve.

The Eagles, not only did they crash out of the Africa Cup of Nations in the round of 16, they also failed to pick a ticket for the biggest football showpiece after a lacklustre performance against Ghana.

It is also worth mentioning that the Falconets and the Flamingos all qualified for the World Cup in their categories.

Favour Ofili: At age 19, Ofili, who specialises in the 200m and 400m, has eight medals – five gold, one silver and two bronze – representing the country.

She holds the 200m national record – 21.96, thus making her the first Nigerian female athlete to run under the 22 seconds barrier. She ran 10.93s in the 100m at the LSU Invitational in Baton Rouge, LA in April, thus becoming the first female NCAA athlete to run sub 22s and sub 11s.

Odunayo Adekuoroye: Despite the Tokyo 2020 Olympics disappointment where she surprisingly didn’t win a medal, wrestler Adekuoroye remains a Nigeria medal hopeful.

A young Adekuoroye at 17, participated in the Commonwealth Tournament in India for the first time in 2010, winning bronze in the 48kg category.

Having put aside her Tokyo failure, she went on to claim her seventh straight gold at the 2022 African Wrestling Championship in El Jadida, Morocco.

According to the United World Wrestling, the 28-year-old is ranked fourth in the women’s 57kg class and is one of the most celebrated wrestlers in the world.

Ifiaezibe Gagbe: Domestically, it was Bayelsa swimmer Gagbe that was the star athlete of the Edo 2020 National Sports Festival, winning an amazing 15 medals at the event.

The athlete won eight gold, two silver and five bronze medals to emerge as the most decorated athlete of the 20th edition of the festival.

Aminat Idrees: The Lagos-based athlete did the unthinkable in Benin City, winning gold, silver and bronze medals in the Taekwondo Poomsae event, with an eight-month pregnancy, at the 2020 sports festival.

The 26-year-old, who represented Lagos, won gold in the Mixed Poomsae category, silver in the Team Poomsae and bronze in the Individual Poomsae to become the poster girl of the event.

Stephanie Onusiruka: Another athlete that stole the show at the festival in Benin was 10-year-old gymnast Onusiruka, who featured for Team Anambra.

She won gold, two silver and one bronze in gymnastics, surpassing any male athlete of her age, and was one of the amazing talents to grace the sports fiesta.

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