It took a cheer determination and grit from John Ogbonna to claim the only gold medal for Nigeria in the men’s freestyle event of the 2019 African Wrestling Championship which ended at the weekend in Hammamet, Tunisia.
Five Nigerian wrestlers competed in the men’s freestyle event while one battle for honours in the Greco roman event but late on the last day of the championship, Ogbonna fought against homeboy – Tunisia’s Maher Ghanmi and the encounter was as if the Nigerian was battling against the whole nation.
But a determined Ogbonna who was not ready to submit his title in the 74kg was not intimidated by the noisy fans to turn the tide against the Tunisian.
At the end of the tie, it was Ogbonna who laughed last to silent the home fans with 8-1 win over the Tunisian to claim the only gold medal won by Nigeria in the men’s event.
Also, the duo of Ekerekeme Agiomor and Melvin Bibo settled for bronze medals in the 79kg and 86kg to add up to the number of medals won by Nigeria to finish with 63points as the fifth-placed team in the men’s event.
Host – Tunisia dominated the men’s event with 183points with five gold medals while Egypt was second with 180points. Algeria and Morocco were third and fifth-placed teams with 117points and 90points respectively.
The Nigeria female team retained their title with Odunayo Adekuoroye been adjudged the best wrestler of the tournament.
However, President, Nigeria Wrestling Federation (NWF), Daniel Igali has lauded the team for the display. “We did very well as athletes competed with guts and desire.
We had Sunmisola Balogun who just graduated from cadet to juniors and competed at her first Senior African championships and won a gold medal.
But she had been exposed by the federation since last year to the cadet Africa championships, junior Africa Games, junior Olympics, cadet world championships and her first senior event at the national sports festival.
In the space of about a year we exposed her to five international tournaments and we, therefore, have a gold medal from 18-year-old athlete in her first senior tournament.
I doff my hat to the athletes and coaches for their doggedness and never-die fighting spirit,” Igali said.