After suffering the ignominy of not getting on the podium at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia 2018, Adijat Olarinoye got Nigeria off the marks at this year’s edition taking place in Birmingham as she won Gold in the women’s 55kg category to help reignite the countries love affair with the sport.
Olarinoye who missed out on last year’s Olympics in Tokyo picked up the pieces from where she left off at the 2021 World Weightlifting championships in which she scooped Silver ahead of India’s Bindyarani Devi Sorokhaibam whom she beat once again to win her first global title, thereby becoming Nigeria’s first Gold medalist in the sport since Maryam Usman in Glasgow in 2014.
The 23- year old who was still an upstart at the last Games in Gold Coast began her quest for Gold with a crisp lift of 90kg and bettered it with a 92kg effort, a mark that became a Games record in the snatch series. Her third attempt at 93kg was met with a failure, but still, Olarinoye was in the lead by a mile with England’s Fraer Morrow in second with a best of 89kg.
When it was time for the clean and jerk series, there was a bit of trepidation in the Nigerian camp after Olarinoye failed at her opening lift of 110kg, a weight efficiently carried with minimal fuss.
At that point, Olarinoye was down to Silver in the series. However, two straight successes at her attempt at 110kg and 111kg put her in the driving seat despite India’s Bindyarani last ditch effort of 116kg (a Games Record in the series) almost causing panic in Nigeria’s camp.
Regardless, her total of 202kg wasn’t enough to reel in Olarinoye whose total amounted to 203kg, which was a new Games Record in the women’s 55kg. Bindyarani took Silver and Morrow won Bronze with a total of 198kg.
It was a momentous feat for Olarinoye, who only made her international debut for Nigeria at the 2019 African Games in Rabat. In Rabat, she picked up two Gold and one silver. It was the start of what Nigerians hoped would become a constant feature in global competitions.
Olarinoye narrowly missed out on Gold last at the World Championships last December on countback after finishing on total (203kg) as Tunisia’s Ghofrane Belkhir. It was a learning curve that shaped her into a better weightlifter and she’s beginning to yield the fruits after her exploits in Birmingham.
Usman, whom she looks up to is heralded in Nigerian sporting folklore after the weightlifter dominated proceedings in the women’s 75kg for the better part of 10 years with the climax of her career coming at the 2008 Beijing Olympics when she won one of Nigeria’s five medals with her Bronze in the 75kg category.
Olarinoye is still learning the ropes, but she’s doing it with medals. She looks up to Usman who was one of the reasons she took up the sport in the first place. Her next stop will be to conquer the world in Bogota, Colombia in December which potentially could put her in the right stead to go into the Olympics in Paris in 2024.
For now, Nigeria can savour this new weightlifting star that could go on to dominate the sport for years to come.