Former Youth Champions win maiden seniors’ medals at Korea Ambassador’s Cup
In a delightful development for Taekwondo in Nigeria, the trio of former national youth champions, Daniel Asuquo, Bukola Ogunnusi and Oyebanji Olapeju clinched their first senior’s gold medals in the male -63kg, female -67kg and female +73kg respectively to firmly announce their arrival on the seniors’ stage at the just concluded Korean Ambassador’s Cup, which held at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos.
To clinch the gold in the male -63 bantam weight category, 18-year-old Daniel Asuquo who won a bronze for Nigeria at the 2017 African Youth Games, defeated Emeka Ugwu of an unaffiliated club, in the finals. He had earlier beaten the number one seed, highly rated Abdullah Adegoke of Osun in the semifinals.
18-year-old Bukola Ogunnusi representing the Chika Chukwumerije Sports Foundation [CCSF] Taekwondo Team secured her maiden seniors’ gold in the female -67kg by defeating Rasheedat Hassan of Lagos after she had earlier beaten Ogun’s Hauwau Olayode in the semi-finals round.
In the female +73kg heavyweight category, 18-year-old Oyebanji Olapeju beat Walshak Albert of the Nigeria Army in the finals after the duo had earlier defeated Kebbi’s Winnie Wisdom and Ayoola Zaenab of Lagos state.
The trio, who turned 18 this year, had won the national junior taekwondo championships in 2017 to became National Youth Champions at the time, before jetting out to represent Nigeria at the 2017 African Youth Games where Daniel Asuquo won an international bronze while Bukola Ogunnusi and Oyebani Olapeji crashed out at the quarter-finals.
In the past two years, the former national junior champions have been knocking on the door at the seniors levels, with a couple already breaking through.
NSCDC’s Helen Okoko, who missed out on the Korea Ambassador’s Cup, emerged national champion at the 2018 National Sports Festival and also won an international gold at the 1st Nigeria Taekwondo International Open. She is currently ranked number one.
Number two ranked athlete, CCSF’s Bukola Ogunnusi won a bronze at the 2018 National Sports Festival in the female -63kg category and a Silver at the Nigeria Taekwondo International Open while Oyebanji Olapeju of Lagos won a bronze in both the 2018 National Sports Festival and Nigeria Taekwondo International Open. She is currently ranked number three in the heavyweight division.
Other youth champions making impact include Daniel Inaju who is now 6th on the national ranking, Daniel Asuquo who is now 7th on the national ranking, and will be certain to improve on his ranking after winning a gold at the just concluded Korean Ambassador’s Cup. Chukwudi Daniel and Phillip Osomode, both members of the 2019 National Youth Team, have also climbed up the national ranking to 15th.
The steady coming of age of the former youth games will be a big boost to the current administration of the Nigeria Taekwondo federation whose policy is heavily in favour of development of youth teams and grassroots development.
The next national junior taekwondo championships will be taken place in Osogbo, Osun between 17 – 19 December 2019, with the Federation planning to debut a national cadets and kiddies championships alongside the youth championships.