Nigeria’s perfect weightlifting record at the Commonwealth Games ended when two of its athletes were disqualified for showing up late to an event won by Englishwoman Zoe Newson.
Tokyo Paralympic champion Latifat Tijani and Onyinyechi Mark were among the favorites to win women’s lightweight gold at Birmingham 2022.
The pair were disqualified after arriving 25 minutes late for their scheduled kit check time, although the Nigerian Commonwealth Games Federation protested the decision saying it was unaware of the agreed time at a technical meeting in August.
A Birmingham 2022 statement read: “Two athletes from the Nigeria national team have been disqualified due to failure to comply with Technical Rules 17.1. disqualified (DSQ)’.
“Both athletes were present at 2:10 pm, 25 minutes late than the scheduled time for the kit check at 1:45 pm.”
Nigerian Press Attaché Oluwatoyin Ibitoye said that Tijani and Mark arrived at the NEC site at 1:55 pm – 65 minutes before the scheduled 3 pm time and five minutes before what they felt was the cut-off point.
Ibitoye said: “The Federation appealed because we felt the athletes arrived on time.
“We have not seen any messages that we should be here at 1:45 pm and based on that we are holding a protest.
“The contest has been won and lost, but it’s important for us to record things so that next time we have better information.
“This type of subject should be discussed at the technical meeting where everyone is present.”
Told that the Nigeria team was indeed present at the technical meeting on Aug 1, when check-in times were agreed, Ibitoye replied: “Staff who went there say they were not told about 1.45.
“You have to trust your own people when they tell you that, and this isn’t the first time. If they’re not getting it right, there must be a disconnect somewhere.
“We’ll learn from that and maybe the next athletes will be here an hour or two before the event.
“The opportunity is gone for these athletes and of course there were tears because of the hours of preparation and training and then this (happens) for technical reasons.”
Newson and English teammate Olivia Broome took advantage of the Nigerians’ absence to take the top two places on the podium, with Kenyan Hellen Kariuki taking bronze.
Nigeria enjoyed gold medals in powerlifting at Glasgow 2014 and Gold Coast 2018 after the sport was categorized separately from powerlifting.
“I think I found out they were disqualified about half an hour before the start,” said Newson, 30, who won Commonwealth bronze on the Gold Coast four years ago.
“I stayed out of it. I just focused on myself and didn’t pay attention to what was happening around me.”
England’s Mark Swan finished second in the men’s lightweight final, behind Malaysian Bonnie Bunyau, who set a new Games record of 154.6 points, with Nigerian Innocent Nnamdi third.