The highlight of Nigeria’s remarkable performance was however, Violet Odogwu’s success in the women’s Long Jump. She won the bronze medal and had the distinction of being the only African woman to win a medal at the games and she also reached the finals of the 80 metres hurdles.
Overall, Nigeria won 3 gold; 4 silver and 3 bronze medals and came 7th out of the 36 countries which took part in the Games. There were 28 athletes, boxers and swimmers and it showed then in 1966, that Nigeria has a wealth of athletic talents which with more adequate training, facilities and more experience were likely to take her place among the leaders in the world of sports.
We were on our way then, because in subsequent years, Nigerian sport was improving splendidly, nurtured by disciplined, sincere, honest, focused, dedicated and committed sports administrators such as the late Abraham Ordia, Isaac Akioye, Dan Enajekpo, Dr Awoture Eleyeae etc. They practically lived for athletics, a trait that is hard to come by in present-day managers.
Then the roof, or rather the sky fell of Nigerian sports the moment the likes of Amos Adamu came in with their one main ambition – make as much money as you can. And they did make money.
Sometime in 1983, while I was doing my Master’s degree at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada, I received a call from a reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. I guessed he got wind of me being the President of University of Manitoba’s International Students Organisation and a founder of the Nigerian Union of Manitoba. He asked me if I could appear on CBC TV to discuss the phenomenal success of Nigerian athletes who had participated in the World University Games held at Edmonton, Alberta that year. I did not even know that Nigeria was represented at the Games. He told me that Nigeria sent only 10 athletes and these athletes won 5 gold medals. I was proud, but hid my ignorance. I accepted and before I appeared on the show, I made sure I knew more about what happened.
In the 1983 World University Games; which was the debut year for this event by Nigeria, Chidi Imoh won gold in the 100 metres; Innocent Egbunike (now a coach in the United States) won gold in the 200 metres; Sunday Uti won gold in the 400 metres; Yusuf Ali won gold in the Long Jump and Ajayi Agbebaku won gold in the Triple Jump. All of them were of course based in the United States, most of them on Nigeria’s scholarship.