Tobi Amusan (21)
It is incredibly difficult to be a woman in sports. This is especially true of athletics, where the path to excellence is measured in milliseconds and centimetres and the pressure to succeed is near unbearable for the uninitiated. Not every woman can handle the strain and pressure that comes with the high octane world of athletics and not many women can rise to the challenge like Tobi Amusan has and thrived.
It is easy to forget that Tobi Amusan is only 21 years old and not even at the peak of her career as an athlete when you evaluate her achievements and compare her progress to her peers. Amusan won her very first gold medal at the 2015 Africa Junior Athletics Championships in Addis Ababa, setting herself apart as an athlete to watch. Silencing the naysayers who sought to downplay her triumph at Addis, she almost matched her feat the very next year at the NCAA Outdoor Championships where she only came seconds shy of winning the 100 metres hurdles with 12.79 seconds, a personal best for her.
Amusan corrected that slight at this year’s Commonwealth Games, beating competitors for the very coveted honour of fastest woman sprinter at the games in Australia. Amusan is at the very beginning of her career and her progress, drive and success are contagious.
Evelyn Akator (23)
After years of being shadowed and downplayed by the Nigerian National Football teams, our country’s basketball teams are finally getting their time in the limelight. Especially the women’s National Team who surprised everyone by beating a number of highly ranked teams to reach the Women’s Basket Ball World tournament semi-finals. This success cannot be celebrated without celebrating the tireless work of D’Tigress Evelyn Akator.
At the FIBA 2018 World tournament, Akator seemed to take the frustrations of previous tournaments and channel it into a winning spirit. She was a terror to opposing teams, using her speed, skill, intuition and courage to drive her team to success time and time again. She was such a phenomenon, she was crowned as the athlete with the most efficiency per game, the most points per game and the most rebounds per game at the FIBA, a fantastic feat considering Nigeria didn’t get to play the semi-final and final.
Thanks to Akator savvy, the country’s hope was restored in women’s basketball, and she continues to impress, challenging all other athletes to show the country the same level of patriotism.
Ahmed Musa (26)
Patriotism was at an all-time high during the 2018 World Cup. We had scored the biggest public relations coup of our Nation’s jersey history, seconded only by the 1994 World Cup Jersey in which the revered Rashidi Yekini scored his now iconic goals. With the Jersey and a dream team, all that Nigerians needed to complete our aspirations for a fantastic world cup was a footballer who was ready to lead a team. That man for us was Ahmed Musa.
Coming from personal turmoil into the 2018 World Cup, Ahmed Musa had something to prove. And that he did, replicating the form he had shown in his private clubs and during the qualifier matches. His first fantastic feat was breaking the jinx of Nigerian players never scoring more than one goal in a World Cup match. He scored twice against Iceland in a match that raised national pride, beating his own record of scoring twice in one match against Argentina in the 2014 World Cup. He rallied his teammates, assisted their attempts at goal and proved himself a patriot above all else.
With a new lease on football at Saudi Arabian team Al-Nassr and his future ahead of him, this seems an excellent time to laud the patriotic talent of Ahmed Musa.
Thursdaline Peter (31)
Thursdaline Peter first made the news in Nigeria, not for her impressive career as an athlete and Taekwondo master but through her noble initiative to train other women to defend themselves against physical and sexual violence from men through self-defence classes. A firm believer in female empowerment Thursdaline Peter have never believed in saying when she could do, and it has informed her phenomenal life and career.
Peter’s standing as a pillar of the taekwondo society in Nigeria, introducing others to the sport and teaching its benefits outside of the stadium led to her invitation to join the Taekwondo World Championships in 2017 as an official referee. Peters was such an asset to the championships that she was chosen from several of the best practitioners and judges in the world as the best International Referee. She also won the Gyorugi Referee Award at the 2017 Chsucheon Korea Open International Championships.
A medalled warrior, Thursdaline Peter proves that having the recognition of the world does not preclude that you act with integrity and you utilize your abilities and experience to make the community around you a better one. Only true masters understand this.
Onyinye Ndidi Wilfred (21)
The 2018 World Cup was the ultimate stage on which a slew of young Nigerian footballers coming into their own got to prove themselves. One of these footballers was 21-year old Ndidi Wilfred, who plays for the Premier League side Leicester City and helped the team retain its coveted spot in the Premier League after a fantasy season the year before.
Wilfred who previously represented the country at the Under 17 and Under 20 level tournaments came to the national team eager to prove himself. By working himself into the heart of the Nigerian midfield and becoming an indispensable part of the team offence and defence strategies, Wilfred proved himself as versatile and intuitive and eager to put his love for country to the test. Thanks to Wilfred’s efforts, the country was able to put out an impressive run at the World Cup, overcoming Icelandic rivals and pushing longtime rivals Argentina to the very brink of failure.
With opportunities for glory at the club and country level, Ndidi Wilfred’s future seems especially bright and we cannot wait to see what he gets up to.