FLASHBACK: HOW NIGERIAN WOMEN TEAM WON OLYMPIC SILVER MEDAL AT ATLANTA ‘96

Nigeria had a glorious closing moment as the curtain was about to fall on the Atlanta ’96 Olympic Games. It was landmark Olympic Games, being held 100 years after the modern games were instituted.

Atlanta ’96 was one that many Nigerians will not easily forget. On this date, 3 August 1996, the Nigerian quartet of Falilat Ogunkoya, Fatima Yusuf, Christy Opara and Bisi Afolabi, continued the great work began by Falilat Ogunkoya who became Nigeria’s first individual medal winner in athletics after winning the bronze medal in 400 meters fivedays earlier.

Nigeria’s second medal, a gold medal came from the leap by Chioma Ajunwa who became the first African woman to win a gold medal in a field event.

Then on this day 24 years ago, the Nigeria 4×400 metres quartet continued the good work as they placed second behind America and ahead of Germany.

As the race began, Olabisi Afolabi in the first leg, put Nigeria ahead but Jamaica’s Merlene Frazer was very close at the point of baton exchange.

In the second leg, Fatima Yusuf extended Nigeria’s lead by about eight metres. But the initial sixth placed Maicel Malone closed up the gaps to place second almost at the point of the second baton exchange.

It was a dramatic race as Russia’s Svetlana Goncharenko who started her leg in the fifth position pursued America’s Malone and overtook her in the final straight.

With Nigeria comfortably in front, the second exchange saw the field bunch as the next six teams exchanged within a couple of steps of one another.

Coming out of the scrum, Russia maintained second place followed by USA, while Cuba’s Surella Morales found herself flat on her face before the end of the first turn.

Through the second turn, Nigeria’s Charity Opara’s lead began to shrink as America’s Kim Graham began to separate from the pack.

Under the challenge, Opara began to tie up, Graham cruised by to hand off to Jearl Miles with a four-metre advantage.

Falilat Ogunkoya in the anchor leg chased America’s Jearl Miles leaving Jamaica’s hurdle gold medalist Deon Hemmings to battle Germany’s Grit Breuer.

Campbell closed quickly to give Hemmings the edge over Breuer, but Falilat Ogunkoya made it clear she was not going to battle for bronze, putting a gap on Hemmings and Breuer quickly from the pass.

Ogunkoya’s focus was on Miles, gaining steadily until the final straight, reducing the gap to less than a metre.

Miles was gritting her teeth, trying to hold off Ogunkoya. Coming off the turn, she looked to be struggling as Ogunkoya gained, Miles drifting into lane 2 to give Ogunkoya the direct route to victory.

But Miles didn’t let her by, holding the edge all the way to the finish line for American gold. Behind them, Hemmings held the advantage over Breuer until the final straight, then Breuer unleashed a sprint that left Hemmings and was nipping at Ogunkoya’s heels, giving the German team the bronze.

Ogunkoya has led Nigeria to a silver medal outing after her earlier bronze medal outing in the 400 metres!