Continent finds unity in 'Africa's Olympics'
It's just under a year before the world converges on London for the 2012 Summer Olympics. I had the great privilege of being a part of the 2004 Athens Games, and I hope to enjoy London as a fan and support Nigeria in its quest to shine. Although the time is short the journey is still long, and before Nigeria can test its might against the world, it must first try to conquer the African continent.
So, I introduce to you the 10th All Africa Games, being held in Maputo, Mozambique, from Sept. 3-18. Though I never competed in this event, I can't help but feel a sense of excitement and pride watching my peers take on the continent. The All Africa Games are basically Africa's version of the Olympics. Approximately 48 nations from across the continent will meet in Maputo and compete in 20 sports. The AAG run every four years, like the Olympics, and are a great unifying tool for Africa -- a continent with over a billion people and more than 2,000 languages. It is truly amazing that we can all come together and speak one language: sports.
The AAG are also an opportunity for athletes and countries to see how well-prepared they are to compete for Olympic spots allocated to Africa for 2012.
If the 2007 AAG Algeria results are anything to go by, Nigeria -- which finished fourth -- looks to receive stiff competition this year from Algeria (second), South Africa (third), Tunisia (fifth) and of course, the defending champion, Egypt. Nigeria will participate in 19 of the 20 sports offered, with 329 athletes competing. Though two of our strongest events, wrestling and weightlifting, won't be included in this year's competition, we still look to stand tall and finish among the top three in the medal count.
Because of my work with the National Sports Commission of Nigeria, I will probably cover every event during the 15-day tournament. I'm most looking forward to men's and women's basketball (of course!), and to watching some of the great personalities of the Games: Caster Semenya, the controversial South African 800m runner; Nigerian Blessing Okagbare, the 2007 AAG silver medalist and 2008 bronze medalist in the long jump; Chika Chukwumerije, 2007 AAG gold medalist in the taekwondo heavyweight category; and badminton star Jinkam Efraim, the current African champion.
Nigeria looks to get many of its medals from the Para Athletics Contingent -- our para athletes have proven dominant both internationally and in Africa. We're also strong in table tennis, badminton and athletics.
Good luck to Nigeria and all her athletes and as always, go for the gold!