2023 in Review: The Nigerian Sportswomen That Spectacularly Dominated Track, Court and Field 

2023 in review - Women in Sports
From the courts to the fields and tracks, these resilient athletes have not only showcased their prowess but have also shattered stereotypes and rewritten the narrative of Nigerian women in sports. 

Before we fully welcome the New Year 2024, let us reflect on the incredible achievements and breakthrough moments that defined 2023 for Nigerian women in sports. Join us as we remember these trailblazing women who continue to inspire and elevate the world of sports in Nigeria.

Asisat Oshoala

Asisat Oshoala via Instagram

A powerhouse in Nigerian women’s football, Asisat also happens to be a striker for the Nigeria women’s national team, the Super Falcons, and the European club, Barcelona. In 2015, she started her club career by joining Liverpool in England’s Women’s Super League, making her the first African woman to compete in England’s top women’s league.

At the FIFA U-20 in 2014, she was named the best player. In that same year, the former president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, honoured her with the title of Member of the Order of the Niger. Oshoala was previously nominated for the 2023 Women’s Ballon d’Or in September. Three months later, she won the African Women’s Footballer of the Year, making it her sixth win. She embodies all the features of a true champion.

Chiamaka Nnadozie

Nnadozie chiamaka (@Nadoziechiamaka) / X
Chiamaka Nnadozie via Instagram

When mentioning formidable forces in goalkeeping, Chiamaka is a household name. She joined the Rivers Angels at the start of the 2016 season and was instrumental to their NWPL win in the 2019 – 2020 season. When Chiamaka turned nineteen, she joined the Super Falcons for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. She helped the team secure a 2-0 victory over Korea and became the youngest goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet.

She returned to the FIFA pitch for the 2023 Women’s World Cup and was the captain of the Super Falcons during their first game against Canada. Her performance, which included three saves during the game, resulted in a goalless draw for the team, and she was awarded player of the match.

At the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Awards of 2023, she was given the female category’s Goalkeeper of the Year award. There is no doubt that she has left a notable mark on female football.

Michelle Alozie

Michelle Alozie reveals her crush in the Super Eagles squad

Many got to know about Michelle Alozie because of her meme on the field. But long before that, she had been on the field. Alozie started her career with the Yale Bulldogs, the female football team for Yale University. Unfortunately, she suffered an injury that ended her senior season on the team.

She transferred to the University of Tennessee, where she continued playing. Michelle made her Super Falcon debut in 2021 as a substitute in a friendly match with Jamaica. She is one of the formidable defenders on the team and was praised for her role in the Super Falcon’s 3-2 victory over Australia at the 2023 Women’s Cup. CAF added her to their list of the best XI for women in 2023. Her agility, strategic play, and goal-scoring ability underscore her importance as a key player.

Amy Okonkwo

Amy Okonkwo via Instagram

An exceptionally talented and successful basketball player, Amy Okonkwo has left an enduring imprint on women’s basketball. Throughout her impressive collegiate journey, she emerged as a standout for the TCU Horned Frogs, garnering All-Big 12 honours and significantly contributing to the program. Her prowess extends beyond collegiate basketball, as she has also showcased her skills in the Ligue Feminine de Basketball, the premier French league.

Amy led the Nigerian female basketball team, D’Tigress, to the AfroBasket Women in 2021, where they secured the title. She also played a significant role in D’Tigress’ win during the Women’s Afrobasketball Championship. Amy had the most baskets, a total of sixteen, and was named the season’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). She continues to inspire fans and fellow athletes alike.

Elizabeth Balogun

Elizabeth BALOGUN (NGR)'s profile - FIBA Women's AfroBasket 2023 - FIBA.basketball
Elizabeth Balogun via Instagram

The basketball scene has been captivated by Elizabeth Balogun, who dazzles audiences with her exceptional skills and versatility on the court. Starting her career in high school, she worked her way up to college basketball, where she played for Georgia Tech, Louisville, and Duke University, where she graduated. She joined D’Tigress in 2020.

In 2023, D’Tigress won the Women’s Afrobasketball Championship hosted by Rwanda. Balogun was instrumental in this win, sinking the ball into the net fifteen times. Balogun’s journey exemplifies the growing impact of Nigerian women in global basketball, and her talent continues to inspire aspiring athletes in Nigeria.

Tobi Amusan

Tobi Amusan via Instagram

Amusan rose to prominence with her impressive performances in the 100-meter hurdles. She solidified her prowess by winning the gold medal in the 100-meter hurdles at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, setting a Games record in the process.

Currently, she holds the world record in the 100-meter hurdles, having clocked an impressive time of 12.12 seconds. This exceptional feat was achieved during the semi-final of the women’s 100-meter hurdles in 2022, hosted in Eugene, Oregon. By accomplishing this milestone, she became the first Nigerian to claim a world record in athletics.

Amusan is currently the African and Commonwealth champion in the 100-meter hurdle. In 2021, she won the Diamond League title. She defended this title in 2022 and 2023 and retained it, making her a three-time Diamond League holder.  Her dedication to her craft continues to mark her as a standout athlete, making her a source of pride for Nigeria.

Favour Ofili

Favour Ofili set new African record in 200m - Daily Trust
Favour Ofili via Instagram

At just 20 years old, Favour Ofili has firmly established herself as a force to be reckoned with in the world of athletics, leaving us utterly impressed with her remarkable achievements.

Her standout performance at the 2019 African Under-18 Championships, where she clinched victory in both the 200- and 400-meter races, marked the beginning of her dazzling journey. Setting an African indoor record in the 200-meter race on February 27, 2021, at the SEC Indoor Championship with a time of 22.75 seconds, she showcased her exceptional speed and skill.

Favour surpassed her record in the subsequent year, clocking an astonishing 22.46 seconds. The Tom Jones Memorial race witnessed a historic moment as she sprinted the 200 meters in an incredible 21.96 seconds. This made her the first Nigerian and the second African woman to achieve this feat in under 22 seconds.

Further solidifying her legacy, at the Tiger Paw Invitational in Clemson, South Carolina, U.S., in February 2023, she set a new record for Louisiana State University (LSU) with a time of 22.36 seconds. This secured her position as the sixth fastest woman in the world and the second in U.S. Collegiate history.

As we eagerly anticipate the new year, we are sure that Favour Ofili’s journey is one to watch, and we look forward to witnessing her break even more records on the track.

Mimisen Agatha Iyorhe

Women in Sports - Mimisen Agatha
Mimisen Agatha Iyorhe via Instagram

Referees are essential to the football game as they maintain orderliness on the field. Coming from a long line of referees, Mimisen Iyorhe has excelled in this role for years. In 2021, she made history as the inaugural Nigerian woman to officiate a CAF senior men’s football tournament during the African Nations Championship. Additionally, she served as one of the FIFA Women’s World Cup officials in 2023.

Recognising her privilege of coming from a sporting family, Mimisen founded the “Goal Bound Sports Initiative,” which encourages young girls to participate in sports. Talk about a girl’s girl!

Gbemisola Abudu

Women in Sports - Gbemisola Abudu
Gbemisola Abudu via Instagram

After working for organisations such as Louis Vuitton, The Walt Disney Company, The Clorox Company, White & Case LLP, and Polo Luxury, Gbemisola Abudu returned to her passion for sports, specifically basketball. She is the current vice president of NBA Africa and the NBA Nigeria Country Lead.

Her degree in global management, coupled with her diverse portfolio, helps her develop business initiatives that expand the presence of basketball in Nigeria and Africa. Abudu is the youngest and only black woman to run a league office.

In 2022, she was listed as one of Sports Illustrated’s 100 Most Influential Black Women in Sports in the World. Worthy of note is her contribution to the planning and executing of the successful 2023 NBA All-Star halftime show. It was Afrobeat-themed and featured artists like Tems, Rema, and Burna Boy. She continues to put Africa on the map as she excels.

Mfon Sunday Udoka

Women in Sports - Mfon Sunday
Mfon Sunday Udoka via Instagram

A forerunner of sports in her family, Mfon played professionally in the NBA for years. This was before inspiring her sister, the former NBA player Imeh Udoka, to join. In 2004, she and the Nigerian female basketball team made history by becoming the first African team to win a game at the Olympics. She came in second at the tournament in scoring and rebounding, even though the team finished 11th out of 12th place.

Mfon was appointed as the assistant coach for D’Tigress in 2011 as they prepared for the African Nations Cup in Mali. She has maintained this role for over a decade and was instrumental in D’Tigress’s win at the Afrobasketball Championship. It is her passion and dedication to the game of basketball that made it possible.

We cannot exhaust this list. We know that the remarkable journey of women in sports is a testament to resilience, determination, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. From breaking barriers to shattering stereotypes, these women have conquered the playing field and paved the way for future generations.

Author

  • Praise Vandeh

    Praise Okeoghene Vandeh is a Culture writer with a Bachelors degree in History and International Studies. She is also a Nora Ephron alumnus. Praise is a feminist who is passionate about women causes and has founded a non profit called Project Give The Girls which aims at eradicating period poverty. When she is not writing or advocating for women’s rights, you can find her reading, watching sitcoms or bantering on twitter.

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