Swimming in Nigeria
- It was taken as a traditional exercise
- It was mostly done in the river line areas
- It is now a major sport in the country
The History of Swimming in Nigeria
Swimming in Nigeria existed as a traditional kind of exercise and fun in most parts of the country mainly in the river line areas.
The competitive aspect of the game came into existence in the nineteenth century, later introduced in the country as one of the most popular Olympic sports.
A competitive swimming event was held in Nigeria for the first time in 1938 at the King George V swimming pool that was built by Dr J Randle on Lagos Island.
Ten years later, the first swimming association known as the Amateur Swimming Association of Nigeria was formed when the country was still a British colony.
The association later changed its name to Nigeria Federation in the late nineteen nineties and in 2013, they came up with Nigeria Aquatic Federation. They settled on the name to reflect the nation’s decision in other forms of aquatic authorities.
King George Pool and the police barracks pool were the formal training centres used to train beginners back then. This was under coach Watts.
The coach’s pursuit to develop the sport in Nigeria was well embraced and bore the fruits of producing professional swimmers who represented the country in swimming competitions internationally and locally.
Let’s take a look at some of the stars who have made the sport worthwhile.
1. Rachael Tonjor
Who is she? Rachael was born on October 14, 1991, and is a Nigeria swimmer who competed in the women’s 100-metre breaststroke event at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
She competed in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics where she finished third in the women’s swimming 100m breaststroke competition.
Tonjor finished in 1:21.43 seconds behind Kos Island’s Zeqiri Rita and Nepal’s Singh Gaurika.
At Rio, she learnt lots of lessons that she said would help her improve in her career, especially the entering time.
The experience gave her satisfaction that she could not retire before being an Olympian which is the peak of the career for every sportsman and woman.
Tonjor happens to be the record holder in the women’s 50m breaststroke and 100m women’s medley.
2. Samson Opuakpor
Samson Focados Opuakpo is a Nigerian citizen born on April 24 1986. He is a professional swimmer in Nigeria who competes internationally for his country.
Samson currently holds the top backstroke and distance freestyler record in Nigeria.
He also participated in the Rio Summer Olympics swimming competitions held in 2016. Samson has represented Nigeria in major competitions among them, the 2009 World Championships held in Rome, Italy in the men’s 50m freestyle.
Two years later, he competed in the All-Africa games held in Maputo, Mozambique becoming sixth in the 400m men’s freestyle.
The following year, he participated in the African Championships held in Kenya’s capital city- Nairobi, competing in 100 m, freestyle, 50m backstroke and 100m backstroke finishing 9th, 5th, and 9th position respectively.
In 2013, he represented Nigeria at the World Championships in Barcelona, Spain in the 100m backstroke and 50m backstroke. The same year, he competed at the Kazan, Russia World Championships.
He became position 76 while competing in the 50m freestyle, 57th position in the 50m backstroke and 16th position in the 50m freestyle.
In 2015, he participated at the African Games in Brazzaville, Congo becoming 14th in the 100m lifestyle, 9th in the 50m backstroke and 13th in the 100m backstroke.
3. Abiola Ogunbanwo
Abiola is a Nigerian-born swimmer who was born on April 19th 2004. She represented Nigeria at the 2019 World Aquatics Championships that were held in Gwangju, South Korea.
She competed in the women’s 100-metre freestyle and women’s 200-metre freestyle events though she did not make it to the semi-finals.
She competed in the 2018 FINA World Swimming Championships -25m that were held in Hangzhou China. Three years later, she competed in the women’s 100 meters freestyle event at the 2020 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo, Japan.
Abiola broke a record in Nigeria when she finished the 100 meters swimming in the Summer Olympics held in Tokyo, Japan in 2020. She kept a record of 59.74 seconds.
The Nigerian government has embraced the sport and always puts the competitors ready to compete at whatever levels both internationally and locally.
The swimmers are well taken care of and have willing and able coaches who help them in their training all through the government. Their vision is to see their country prosper in the sport and bring big names as football has.