Team Nigeria upbeat, as Rio 2016 Paralympics begins

They left Nigeria for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games quietly, but Team Nigeria’s contingent to the games say they have all the ingredients needed to return from the competition as heroes.

Team Nigeria will feature in three events, including para-athletics, para-powerlifting and para-table tennis.

At the last games in London, Nigeria won six gold, five silver and two bronze medals, but this class believe they can do better.

On Wednesday, Rio de Janeiro set aside worries over finances, ticket sales and politics for a spectacular opening show staged to welcome thousands of athletes to the start of the Paralympics.

They came in all shapes and sizes, blind, missing limbs or partially paralyzed to parade in the famed Maracana football stadium ahead of 11 days of contests.

Looking forward to a victorious outing in the city, where Nigeria performed abysmally less than a month ago, Secretary General of the Paralympic Committee Nigeria, Dr. Frank Thorpe, said this would be a different story.

He boasted that Team Nigeria’s Paralympic athletes have never been found wanting when it comes to winning medals for the country, adding that the team chose only three events because they know they can excel in them.

Nigeria has won 26 gold, 11 silver and 12 bronze medals since debuting in the Paralympics at at the Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games.

Brazil is under a period of deep recession and political instability, but all those worries were set aside for the sporting extravaganza where top stars, including Iranian powerlifter Siamand Rahman, Britain’s wheelchair racer David Weir and China’s blind sprinter Liu Cuiqing paraded in readiness for the main show.

“These are going to be the people’s Games. You can’t come to a more passionate people for sport,” International Paralympic Committee President, Philip Craven, said at a press conference Wednesday in Rio.

He said that 4,342 athletes from 159 countries, plus members of the international refugee team, were taking part and quipped: “All I saw were happy athletes in the Village.”

Noting that the Games would be broadcast in 154 countries, Craven said the Paralympics had the power to change the way people around the world think about the disabled.

“That’s where transformation happens,” he said.

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