I count myself lucky to have been alive to watch some of the most dramatic moments of the most memorable Olympic Games of the past half a Century, at least, yesterday.
There have been several such moments during Tokyo 2020, particularly since the Athletics events started, that stand-out. These special moments are captured in pictures that will define the Olympics for historians for a long time to come.
So, even as ‘evening’ sets on Tokyo 2020 and the forensic analysis of the levels of performances of the various teams have not begun, it is safe to dig a little beneath the low hanging clouds over Nigeria. It cannot be all doom and gloom for Nigeria.
For the Nigerian contingent, one must shut one’s eyes to the spate of negative media reports that threaten to becloud the silver lining in the country’s final scorecard.
On a positive note, the country presented representatives in 10 different sports in the Games, with several of them making their debuts. That is a progressive step.
Wrestling won its very first medal at the games last night, and may add to the overall total by one after Odunayo Adekuoroye also eventually and predictably gets to the finals when her own campaign starts later today.
Tobi Amusa needed a divine boost of motivation to get beyond her earned fourth place ranking in the world during the finals of the 100 metres hurdles. She did not get what a terrace full of singing Nigerian supporters would have provided. Instead, the empty and silent terraces combined with the absence of a metaphysical presence, to keep her grounded in the reality of her situation that she has another Olympics to go to in order to deserve a medal.
Ese Brume looked happy enough in her ‘victory’. Deep down, however, she is weeping over a missed opportunity. She was more than the Bronze she got on the night. She was the top ranked jumper in the world coming to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and had everything going for her except a timely wind beneath her sails to keep her in flight for a micro-second longer, and extend her outstretched legs a millimeter longer. This could have made the difference between her and the Gold medal.
The basketball teams lost all their matches at the games. Beneath the surface of those defeats were 6 competitive matches that showed clearly that at the international level of the game, with the men’s and women’s national teams of Nigeria, D’Tigers and D’Tigress have ‘arrived’.
Their defeats are a warning. For debutants at this level their defeats are like victories for the future threat they pose.
There were some minor issues with the basketball teams, however, in Tokyo. ‘The Eye’ did not see any Nigerian technical hand on the bench. Is it because the team was entirely foreign-based, and without an input in any form or shape from Nigeria?
Also, throughout the duration of the Games till now, ‘the Eye’ never caught a glimpse of any of the administrators of the federation in Tokyo. Are they there but invisible?
‘The Eye’ will still wait a day or two more here to see what happens to Odunayo in wrestling and the relay team, if one can be assembled from the mixed grill of a jumper, a hurdler, a sprinter and a quarter miler left in the contingent.
Meanwhile, last night ‘the Eye’ went on a deserved break and joined the rest of the world in witnessing some spectacular performances on the tracks of the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.
One stood out for it. To understand the significance of that singular performance and achievement one must go back into the history books and dig out the name of, probably, the greatest sprint-hurdler in athletics history, the man who remained unbeaten in all of 122 races in a period of 10 years from 1977 to 1987, the man who broke the world record 4 times during that period, who won two Olympic Gold medals and a Bronze medal only when the light of his career finally started to dim in 1992.
The image of Edwin Moses loomed large in the mind of those that realised and appreciated the enormity of what happened when the finals of the 400m hurdles was run two nights ago in Tokyo.
Throughout Edwin Moses’s long career, his only competitor was time. He was so dominant for 10 years that no one was even close to defeating him in 122 races all over the world. He never shied away from any race, anywhere on the planet. And he won them all.
When he finally left the scene he set the benchmark for the hurdles in the world. No one could touch his records for over a decade. And those were in the days when the usage of drugs was still foreign to most athletes in the world, and they ran clean.
When records such as the ones Edwin set in a highly technical race such as the Hurdles are broken, they are in microcosms of seconds. Time after time, race after race, Edwin chased to beat the 47 seconds barrier. He never succeeded.
Then came another American, Kevin Young in 1992. He was the first athlete in 10 years to defeat Edwin, but he had to break the world record and shatter the 47-seconds barrier to achieve that feat at the ’92 Barcelona Olympics. Kevin’s record of 46.78 secs stood for 29 years, to underline the difficulty in running over the hurdles over 400 metres.
Two nights ago, a Norwegian who broke the world record held by Kevin only last month with a new time of 46.70 seconds, ran a race that left the world gasping in awe and disbelief on the fast tracks in Tokyo.
For the first time, a human being ran the 400 metres hurdles in under 46 seconds. Karsten Warholm ran the race at a pace once thought of as impossible by a human. He covered the distance in 45.94secs!
‘The Eye’ could not take its eyes off the clock. It immediately called up Edwin Moses in his base in Atlanta Georgia.
‘Yes, who is this? What can I do for you?’.
A short conversation took place.
‘Did you just watch the 400 metres hurdles in Tokyo?’, ‘The Eye’ asked him.
For any one interested in the conversation between ‘the Eye’ and the great legend, the man who made running look so easy, the one who did not have a coach handling him through most of his career, tune in to ‘The Sports Parliament’ this Thursday night, on Africa’s largest Television network, NTA, Nigeria, for Edwin’s response and reaction.
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