Nigerian boxers are embittered after they were ruled out from the 2020 Olympics, following the cancellation of the 2021 World Olympic Boxing Qualifying Tournament in Paris in June, due to COVID-19 concerns, newsmen reports.
The International Olympic Committee said Tuesday plans were changed because of “current challenges to international travel and related restrictions in many countries” during the coronavirus pandemic.
Boxers worldwide were to compete for 53 places in the Tokyo lineup at a tournament in Paris in June.
Olympic entries from Africa and the Asia-Oceania region will now be allocated by rankings, while boxers in the Americas and Europe can still earn qualifying places in the ring.
The African qualifiers held last February in Dakar, Senegal – which Nigeria didn’t attend – would be used for the allocation of slots in Africa.
Afeez Osoba, 2019 African Games silver medalist, expressed sadness over the development.
“All the hard work has just gone down the drain. My mind was on the Olympic qualifiers and not the National Sports Festival; this has affected my morale and that of my teammates, Osoba told newsmen.
“When I woke up today (Tuesday), I had to force myself to go for training, but I couldn’t even concentrate as I wanted. It’s sad we didn’t attend the qualifiers in Senegal, a lot of us would have booked our tickets there.”
Another boxer Franklin Arinze said, “Very sad news but there is nothing we can do about that. We only need to task our leaders to do the right things for us in the future.”
Elizabeth Oshoba, who represents Nigeria in the women’s 57kg category, said, “I feel so bad that we won’t be at the Olympics, this is disappointing because we have been preparing, working individually for months and hoping that we will be called into camp early so that we can have very good preparation for the championship.
“It’s more saddening because we didn’t attend the African qualifiers in Senegal. A lot of us would have qualified if we had attended.”
This will be the first time since the 1960 Olympics in Rome that Nigeria failed to field a boxer for the Games, except the 1976 edition, which was boycotted by the country. Nigeria was represented by one athlete (Efe Ajagba) at the 2016 Games in Rio.