Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games para-powerlifting gold medallists, Esther Oyema and Rowland Ezuruike, as well as silver medallist, Lucy Ejike are looking forward to meeting President Muhammed Buhari to present their diadems personally to him in Abuja.
The heroic trio expressed their delight that they were able to put Nigeria is in the limelight in Australia, saying they are happy to see Nigerians excited because of their efforts.
Oyema on Tuesday broke her world record to win the Games’ powerlifting event for the third consecutive time after lifting 131kg in the women’s lightweight to win gold.
On his part, Ezuruike won men’s lightweight gold ahead of fellow-Nigerian and defending champion, Paul Kehinde after lifting 188kg and 194kg to score 224.3 points.
Ejike was second behind Oyema, and all the lifters said they are looking forward to meeting President Muhammadu Buhari after the Games.
Oyema lamented para-athletes are often ignored by the country despite setting world records, calling for Buhari to change things this time round.
Oyema retorted: “I feel so excited because it was like a film to me.I was anxious about winning gold at the Games.
“I had to start the process of cutting down on my body weight, because I was already in the heavyweight class and I knew I needed a lot of hard work to shed about 10kg.
“My coach Pat Ibite encouraged me so I started training for it. If I didn’t work on my body weight, I wouldn’t have set a new world record.
“I have made sacrifices to make my country proud. I have won gold and set a third world record. I would like to meet President Buhari. I want him to make us proud too.
“Most of us are well educated but we can’t find good jobs, because of our physical challenges. I do this competition with passion because I love what I’m doing.
“Today, everybody wants to felicitate with us but after the Games, we will be forgotten. We are not recognised despite being number one in the world in para powerlifting.
“There are so many of us on the streets out there looking for food to eat. They are Paralympic and world champions but nobody knows them anymore because they are no longer competing so I want the President to recognize us and put us in the right position.”
Ezurike echoed Oyema’s complaints, but also said he was not happy winning gold medal by beating his friend and world record holder Kehinde.
Ezurike added: “It’s an honour for me to beat a world champion. He is one of the greatest in powerlifting.
“He beat me in the last Commonwealth Games and I defeated him in this year’s. I’m happy not just because of the gold medal but the person I beat.”
“What they expected from us, we have given it to them and I know that Mr President will do something for us. Sport is all about encouragement and motivation.
“They say that to whom much is expected, much is given. I think we have given them our best and we are expecting from them.
“I have finished my part and I want our dear President to invite us to Aso Villa for a reception. That is my dream.”
Meanwhile, vice-president of Nigeria Para-Powerlifting Federation (NPPF), Ruel Ishaku has hailed the nation’s representatives at the powerlifting event for their performances in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.
Ishaku said he was happy with the athletes for the number of medals won and for living up to expectations in the Games.
Team Nigeria put up a dominant display by clinching four gold medals at stake in the para-powerlifting event, and also got two silver medals in the light and heavy weight classes.
“The power lifters have always been known for impressive performances, which they have proved again in this year’s Commonwealth Games. I’m proud of them and praise this great achievement.
“Millions of Nigerians even in the Diaspora will agree with me that we are a force to reckon with any day any time, I am too excited and can’t wait to embrace these champions,’’ Ishaku said.
He added that the honour and achievement that the lifters brought to the nation would without any doubt, attract commensurate reward from the authorities, corporate organisations and individuals.
“All the athletes that won medals in Australia deserve to be recognised but the power lifters have continuously stood out in their performances. Therefore, great reward should be measured out to them.
“I expect the authorities to set the ball rolling to ginger corporate bodies, non-governmental organisations and individuals to honour and appreciate the champions for their efforts,’’ he added.
In the same vein, Folashade Oluwafemiayo, an Olympian, said she was happy with the athletes for fulfilling the promises they made during their preparations for the Games.
Oluwafemiayo stated that she and other lifters in the country had been jubilating over the success, and had equally communicated to congratulate them for the good representation.
“I am one of the happiest person because I was part of them in the national camp for these Games, so, even when I didn’t go with them to Australia, I prayed and wished them well.
“It’s been jubilation galore since they started competing because they were just progressing from one stage to another and swept the medals,’’ she said.
Also, Ijeoma Iherobiem, the South-East representative on the NPPF, said that the lifters had done marvelously well and deserved to be commended.
Iherobiem revealed that her happiness was based on the fact that they performed as expected, and affirmed the trust bestowed on them by fans across the country and abroad.
“If I say our lifters are wonderful, it is not enough because these guys are simply the best, they have exhibited the ability in their disability and I feel great,’’ she said.