It was fanfare at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos on Monday evening when the Nigeria Para-Powerlifting team arrived in the country to a heroic welcome following an outstanding performance at the just concluded 2019 World Para-Powerlifting Championship held in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
At the championships, which featured 76 countries and 608 participants, Nigeria team of 14 athletes finished second behind China with three gold, three silver, and two bronze medals. They were the first among the African teams in attendance.
China won the championship with seven gold, eight silver, and one bronze medals, while Egypt, the second-best team from Africa, came fourth with two gold, four silver, one bronze medals.
In a nail-biting contest, Oluwafemiayo lifted an impressive 150kg to retake the world record in her third attempt and overcome a spirited challenge from China’s Zheng Feifei, who had broken the world record earlier thanks to a 147kg lift.
In the female category, Bose Omolayo delivered an explosive performance as she broke another world record in the women’s 79kg to win the gold. She defeated the defending champion, China’s Xu Lili, who was also the world record holder.
Her feat made the Nigerian women para-power lifters the honour of being the best female team at the championship.
“It wasn’t an easy competition. I was aiming to challenge Lili and the world title. So, once she failed in her second and then third round, I chose to go for the world record. And it was all possible because of my faith in God and his miracles,” 41-year-old Omolayo said.
In the 72kg category, Nigeria’s Nnamdi Innocent took bronze, while Iran’s defending champion Nader Moradi came second behind China’s Hu Peng, who celebrated his maiden title.
The Championship, which started on July 13, ended on July 20.
Speaking at the welcoming ceremony held for the team, president of the Nigeria Para-Powerlifting Federation, Queen Uboh said the victory has shown that Nigeria is the hub of para-powerlifting.
“After camping for three weeks and traveling with 14 powerlifters, Nigeria came second out of 76 countries. We beat top nations that came with full contingents of 46 powerlifters.
“If some of our powerlifters were not injured, Nigeria would have beaten China to win the championship.
“But that notwithstanding, we thank God for the achievements. As cricket is known to Pakistan, basketball to America, that is the way the world sees Nigeria in para-powerlifting. But the federation needs more sponsors to grow the sport.”
She revealed that because of what the team did in China, the world body has given Nigeria the nod to host the next championships in Abuja next year, among other international engagements.
“Nigeria is the first country in Africa that has been given this right to host the world in para-powerlifting,” she said.
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