June 27, 2022

Former Olympic champion charges Oborududu to forget ‘guaranteed silver’ and go for gold

Blessing Oborududu of Team Nigeria celebrates after defeating Battsetseg Soronzonbold of Team Mongolia during the Women’s Freestyle 68kg Semifinal on day ten of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Photo: AFP

Former Olympic and Commonwealth freestyle wrestling champion, and current president of the Nigerian Wrestling Federation, Daniel Igali, has showered encomiums on Blessing Oborududu after the wrestler advanced to the final of the women’s 68kg freestyle wrestling event at the on-going Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Oborududu, a Commonwealth champion, on Monday defeated London 2012 Olympics bronze medallist Battsetseg Soronzonbold of Mongolia 7-2 to advance to the final of her event.

In the process, the 32-year-old made history as the first athlete representing Nigeria to reach the final of a wrestling event at the Olympics.

And Igali, who won gold at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, but in the colours of his adopted nation Canada, believes Oborududu’s feat is as a result of all the hard work the 10-time African champion had put in over the past decade.

Daniel Igali (centre) salutes the crowd after the medal presentation ceremony for the men’s freestyle lightweight wrestling at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Photo: World Wrestling

“The results we are beginning to see at the Olympic level are about a decade of preparations coming to fruition. If anyone deserves to win a medal here, Blessing Oborududu does,” said Bayelsa-born Igali.

“(She is) by far one of the best disciplined athletes I have ever groomed. Discovered her at their inter house sports competition. She lost in the finals, but I saw traits that I felt we could fine tune.

“The rest is now history. It’s been over a decade of near misses. I am so happy for her, the coaches and the team.”

Up next for Oborududu in Tuesday’s final is Tamyra Mensah-Stock of the United States who overpowered Ukraine’s Alla Cherkasova 10-4 in semi-final.

Tamyra Mensah-Stock of the United States of America celebrates after her Women’s Freestyle 68kg semifinal victory. She will be facing Blessing Oborodudu on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

It means Oborududu is already assured of at least a silver medal even before her match against the reigning world champion. It will also be Nigeria’s first medal of the Tokyo Olympics; a feat that has gotten the sports-crazy country buzzing.

But Igali is not having any of that “at least a silver medal” talks being bandied in the Nigerian press as he believes Oborududu has what it takes to get the better of the 28-year-old 2019 world champion.

“I read somewhere about a guaranteed silver medal. While that in itself is a tremendous achievement, we are going for the big prize,” said Igali, before adding: “Now let’s go win an Olympic gold medal tomorrow (Tuesday).”

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