A largely unknown Nigerian female swimmer, Habibat Abiola Moyosore Ogunbanwo has set her sight on winning a medal at the ongoing Olympic Games in Tokya, Japan.
Megasportsarena.com reports that, although Nigeria has often been tagged a country whose spots climate is alien to swimming, Ogunbanwa stressed that she is determined to excel where others fell.
No Nigerian woman has ever gone under a minute in the women’s 100 freestyle event, but Ogunbanwo says she is determined and hoping to finally become the first to do so.
She will also be the 10th Team Nigeria swimmer to compete at the Olympic Games, behind Musa Bakare and Ikhaghomi Joshua at Barcelona ‘92) Ngozi Monu at Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008, Gentle Offoin at Sydney 2000, Lenient Obia and Eric Williams at Athens 2004, Yellow Yeiyah at Beijing 2008 as well as Samson Opuakpo and Rachael Tonjor at Rio 2016.
But the 17-year-old Ogunbanwo, who has been horning her skills at the globally acclaimed FINA Development Centre in Kazan, Russia would be hoping to do what no other Nigerian swimmer has done when she dives into the pool on Wednesday – progressing to the semi-finals of the Olympics and becoming the first Nigerian woman to break the one-minute barrier.
Competing against her in Heat 1 would be Mineri Gomez of Guam, Andela Antunovic of Montenegro, and Nepal’s Gaurika Singh, who was the youngest Olympian in 2016, when she was 13.
Now 17, and with a personal best of 1:00.62, she and Antunovic (PB 1:00.49) will be favourites to challenge Ogunbanwo for the top spot in Heat 1.
However, Ogunbanwo has a personal best of 1:00.77, which she set in April in Russia, but the national record holder in the women’s 200m freestyle will need to become the first Nigerian woman to finish under a minute if she is to stand a chance of progressing to the semi-finals in her event.
In swimming, the time a swimmer finishes is all that matters in the heats, as only the fastest 16 swimmers will advance to the semi-finals.
Sweden’s Sarah Sjoestroem has held the world record of 51.71s since July 2017, but with most of the top swimmers in the women’s 100m freestyle returning sub-55s times, Ogunbanwo’s chances of making it to the semi-finals look bleak.
If the teenager can finally become the first Nigerian woman to go under a minute and shatter Monu’s longstanding record of 1:00.50, achieved in 2007, the Lagos-born swimmer would then consider her maiden appearance at the Olympics a massive success.