Nigeria’s quest for Olympic medals were rested on the shoulders of its athletes to the just concluded Tokyo Olympics games. One of such athletes was 32-year-old Miss Blessing Oborududu, who hails from the creeks of Gbanraun in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
Truly, the expectations of Nigerians were not misplaced as medals were the whole essence of the Olympic games, aside its global unifying factor as a profound sports showpiece. In particular, gold medal has been elusive for the country since the last time in Atlanta, United States of America in 1996, where the country won gold in football and in long jump.
So, in the just-concluded Tokyo Olympics,
wrestling was one sport that the nation banked on to grab a medal and with the likes of Oborududu and her partner, Odunayo Adekuoroye, it was a sure bet.
But while Adekuoroye failed to shine in very strange circumstance, Oborududu climbed the podium with a ‘golden silver’ worn on her neck, making her the first wrestler to win an Olympic medal representing Nigeria at the Olympics.
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Born on March 12, 1989, Oborududu is currently ranked as the world number two woman wrestler and she is also a ten-time African champion from 2010 to 2020. The Tokyo Olympics was her third appearance at the Olympics since 2012 in London.
Oborududu was invited to the national camp in 2007 to take part at the African Games after noticing her impressive performances at school inter-house wrestling competitions. Her parents were initially against her ambition to become a sport wrestler and advised her that wrestling is assigned only to boys but she insisted. She idolised Canadian-Nigerian wrestler, Daniel Igali, who was originally regarded as the first person from Nigeria to win an Olympic medal in wrestling.
Oborududu has won a gold medal at the African Wrestling Championships every year for the last 11 years, except for 2012 when she did not enter due to competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics. She competed in the freestyle 63 kg event at the 2012 Summer Olympics and was eliminated in the 1/8 finals by Monika Michalik.
The wrestling sensation won the bronze medal in the women’s middleweight at the 2014 Commonwealth Games after defeating Chloe Spiteri in her bronze medal match. She also competed in the women’s middleweight at the 2016 Summer Olympics, losing to Soronzonboldyn Battsetseg in the second round.
She won a gold medal in the women’s 63 kg category at the 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games. She won a gold medal at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in the 68 kg women’s freestyle wrestling event, defeating Canada’s Danielle Lappage.
Oborududu picked up her qualifying ticket to the Tokyo Games at the 2021 African and Oceania Wrestling Olympic Qualification Tournament, and in June 2021, she won the silver medal in her event at the 2021 Poland Open held in Warsaw, Poland.
According to her, “When I was growing, my parents used to tell me wrestling is for boys and not for girls. But when I saw female wrestlers shining in the sport and traveling outside the country, I said I want to be traveling like them, I want to do this thing [wrestling].
“A lot of people would see me and tell me ‘you are not a wrestler; you don’t look like one’ but my coaches encouraged me and also believed in my ability.
“I kept doing it for me and my coaches. They believed. Whenever I went to the Worlds, Olympics they always encouraged me that, ‘Blessing the best is yet to come. You just need to focus, because you are strong, you are young, you can make it’. This is what has kept me going for the past 10-12 years”.
The Business Administration graduate of the Niger Delta University (NDU) in Bayelsa had initially planned to retire after her long career, but remain heavily involved in Nigerian wrestling as she is a role model to many Nigerian girls looking to take up wrestling.
But after winning the silver medal, she appears to be making a U-turn, saying “I thought of retiring after the Olympics, but right now, I will go into discourse with my president and my coaches about the way forward”.