There is hardly any top sporting competition in the world that Nigerian names don’t pop up even if the Green and White flag of the country is conspicuously absent.
From the American Super Bowl to the NBA and even the recent Euro 2020, participants with Nigerian lineage are always present.
The situation was not any different at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics even though Team Nigeria was actually on parade in Japan – returning home with two medals.
PREMIUM TIMES makes a shortlist of athletes who have Nigerian heritage but competed for other countries in Tokyo and also won medals.
Although these athletes with their Nigerian lineage could have opted for the Green and White colours, they chose otherwise.
The 27-year old was part of the all-conquering Italian Men’s 4x100m quartet that stormed to gold in Tokyo.
Though Desalu is of Nigerian origin, he was born and raised in Italy and acquired full Italian citizenship in 2012.
“I have never been to Nigeria and, right now , I don’t feel the need to go. I don’t even know the national anthem of Nigeria. My roots are in Africa and I don’t ignore them but I consider myself deeply Italian,” Eseosa said.
While Desalu is celebrating his gold for Italy, Nigeria failed to qualify for the men’s 4x100m event in Tokyo despite pushing hard after failing to attend the World Relays where they could have gotten a ticket more easily.
Competing in his second Olympic Games for Great Britain after his debut in Rio, Ujah narrowly missed out on the 4x100m gold but would be pleased with the silver nonetheless.
Ujah’s father was an engineer who moved from Nigeria to England as a boy. The sprinter admits it was difficult convincing his father that a career in athletics was the right choice for him.
“I used to play football for my local club and was pretty good. Dad was not too impressed about football and he didn’t like the idea of me going pro. When I was doing athletics he thought it was just a hobby, and I set my heart on showing him that it wasn’t just a little thing on the side.
“He got a letter in the post when I was 17 saying I’d been selected for the world youth championships, then it was world juniors the next year, and European juniors after that. Basically, I’ve been on every national team since 2011 so he’s come round to the idea. But my family are very focused on education and not sport” Ujah told the Daily Mail.
The 25-year-old sprinter represented Canada in the 4x100m men’s event at the Tokyo Olympics.
He was born in London, England, and moved to his parent’s home country of Nigeria at age three. His family relocated to Canada when he was 11.
Ajomale helped Canada to another podium finish in Tokyo in the 4x100m event.
So technically, a ‘Nigerian’ was part of the gold, silver, and bronze-winning 4x100m men’s team at the Tokyo Olympics.
This is one of the many Nigerian exports to the NBA. He was born in Newark, New Jersey to a Nigerian father and an African-American mother.
He spent one season playing college basketball at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY, United States of America, before entering the NBA Draft. Miami Heat selected him as the 14th overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft.
The Miami Heat center started all six Olympic games for Team USA and helped lead the team to win the Gold Medal despite their shaky start which saw them lose their first game at the Olympics.
There were a handful of players raised in the United States just like Adebayo that played for Nigeria’s D’Tigers in Tokyo. Unfortunately, Nigeria lost all its three group games in Tokyo; thus suffering an early exit.
The Tokyo Olympics is the third for the 33-year old who proudly holds the citizenship of Canada, Nigeria, and the United States.
Akinradewo had a glorious outing in Tokyo helping the USA women’s volleyball team win gold on the final day of action when they beat Brazil
Foluke’s parents are Ayoola and Comfort Akinradewo and she has two brothers, Folu and Foluso.
Before finally winning gold in Tokyo, Akinradewo had settled for the Bronze in Rio 2016 after missing out on gold at London 2012 where the American team won silver.
In the build-up to the Olympic Games, she spoke about her experience of competing as a professional athlete after giving birth to her son Kayode in 2019.
“My routine has been quite different. The biggest thing for me is having less downtime. I have a fantastic support system with my husband, who’s really stepping in, and my mother, and I couldn’t do what I’m doing without them.
“It makes it even more difficult to be away from home and it’s not easy having to be a mum after a hard practice, but it’s so worth it. And my son is a big motivation for me. I hope one day when he gets older he can be proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish with my team.” she told en.volleyballworld.com
For now, Nigeria is yet to qualify for the Olympic Games volleyball event let alone winning a medal.
Apart from those that won medals, they were a host of other ‘Nigerians’ that featured for other countries in Tokyo.