2018 was an appreciable year for Nigerians in sports across the globe. And as we come to the end of a successful year in sports, Connect Nigeria takes a quick look at 5 sport persons who distinguished themselves in various sports this year.
The first on our list is a Nigerian, who held the world in immense wonderment as he joined the ranks of boxing legends including Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis and Riddick Bowe — who all dominated the heavyweight division at a point in their career. Clearly, we are referring to none other than the current unified heavyweight champion, Anthony Joshua.
Every punch in and out of the ring, every run, every squat, every minute of training that the boxer has embarked on his entire life, has led to this point in his career — where he is the face of the world boxing heavyweight division.
Joshua won his first world title against Charles Martin on April 9, 2016. In the fight held at the 02 Arena, the Nigerian utterly stupefied Martin, who was already at his wit’s end early into the bout, to claim the International Boxing Federation title.
Barely one year later, Joshua faced the biggest challenge in his career at the time, Russian strongman, Wladimir Klitschko. And for his many victories and strong form, many thought Klitschko would give Joshua a beating he’ll never forget. They were right!
Joshua went against a seasoned warrior and was met with great difficulty. However, the Nigerian was prepared to win at all cost, and he did, claiming the vacant World Boxing Association title.
In 2018, Joshua climbed the ranks of heavyweight champions who have held three world titles at the same time, when he beat Joseph Parker in a title unification bout, to claim the New Zealander’s World Boxing Organization heavyweight title.
On September 2, 2018, Joshua put all three heavyweight titles and his IBO belt on the line against mandatory WBA challenger Alexander Povetkin. The Nigerian had a close call against Povetkin, retaining all his belts.
We expect a mega undisputed bout between Joshua and Wilder in April 2019.
This year, Ahmed Musa, became the most talked about Nigerian for a time, during the Super Eagles campaign at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Fans of the Nigerian team had high hopes for the Eagles at the world championship, and for a brief moment it seemed that the Nigeria would finally break through a recurrent jinx [Argentina], at the FIFA World Cup.
Musa, was right in the fore of the battle to stop Argentina, and help Nigeria push through to the next round of the world cup. However, the Super Eagles were yet humbled by the Argentine team, ending their campaign in Russia.
Though the Super Eagles did not progress into the second round of the cup, One of Musa’s goals was selected and voted the 8th best goal of the tournament.
Adaora Elonu is a pro-basketball player for the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) side, Atlanta Dreams. The basketballer was a part of Nigeria’s bronze winning team, at the 2015 Afrobasket in Cameroon, and also part of the D’Tigress team that emerged the winners of the 2017 Afrobasket championship in Mali.
In 2018, Elonu captained D’Tigress to the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup in Tenerife, where the Nigerian team made African history.
Before D’Tigress stunned the world at the FIBA Women’s World Cup, no African team had ever broken through the group stage of the championship. It was a big first for Africa, and despite not winning the trophy, D’Tigress proved themselves to the world.
Super Falcons ace forward, Asisat Oshoala, has had quite the remarkable year, with multiple awards for her club and country to show for it.
The Dalian Quanjian FC striker, started off 2018 on the front foot, winning the 2017 CAF Women’s Player of the Year award in January. She was also named the Aiteo/Nigeria Football Federation Player of the Year (women’s category). Alongside her football accolades, the Nigerian was in this year, appointed the new Lagos Ambassador by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.
Asisat was a crucial part of the Super Falcons team that brought Africa to its knees yet again, to claim their ninth Africa Women’s Cup of Nations title.
For her first-class performance for Nigeria and her club, Oshoala has been nominated for the 2018 Africa Women’s Player of the Year. If she is victorious as is expected, it will be the third consecutive time she’ll be named the Africa Women’s Player of the Year.
Our list would not be complete without Africa’s foremost table tennis player, Aruna Quadri, whose fine form in 2018 got him an invite to the Liebherr 2018 Men’s World Cup in Paris.
In January Quadri became the first ever Nigerian tennis player to break into the International Table Tennis Federation Top 20 World Ranking.
In July, Quadri, replicated the same feat to displace Egypt’s Omar Assar, to become Africa’s best player.
In September, Quadri helped Nigerian regain the Men’s team title at the 2018 ITTF African Championships, after ten years of Egyptian dominance at the games.
Asides winning the gold medal, Nigeria will represent Africa at the 2019 ITTF Team World Cup in Tokyo, Japan.
For her remarkable show of strength, dexterity and courage, regardless of prevailing circumstances, Simi Adeagbo, deserves a place on our list.
Simi is a 36-year old Nigerian, who rose above all odds to become Africa’s first ever female Olympic skeleton athlete. The Nigerian’s story is one of pure determination.
Featured Image Source: FIFA