Africa

Rio 2016: The rower, the rapper and the mistaken Nigerian Olympic medal

Rower Chierika Ukogu - 9 August 2016 in Rio, Brazil Image copyright AFP

Nigeria's Olympic rower Chierika Ukogu has an inspirational story - but without the mistaken promotion of US rapper Snoop Dogg, she is likely to have sunk without trace.

The 23-year-old crowdfunded her way to Rio to compete in the women's single sculls, but finished 20th in the finals last Saturday.

However, six days later Snoop Dogg posted a photo of Ukogu on Instagram, telling his nearly 12 million followers that she had won a silver medal - Nigeria's first at these Games:

We all have to admit that following the Olympics can be confusing, with heats and umpteen rounds before the finals.

Ukogu did get through her heats, and made the quarter-finals, but needed to finish in the top three to progress to the semis with a chance of getting a medal.

She came fifth in her race so was demoted to the "C/D" semis and final. In her "final D" race she came second, but her time of 7:44:76 put her 18 places below silver.

What may have led Snoop Dogg up the garden path was a tweet last Saturday suggesting she had won silver for Nigeria:

Image copyright @cyberomin

This then got picked up on Monday and was retweeted a bit:

Image copyright @nairawall

More of such tweets appeared on Friday - though it's not clear if this was before or after Snoop Dogg instagrammed.

At the time of writing, his post had nearly 97,000 likes and more than 1,000 comments, some of which pointed out that it was not true - with others saying Ukogu was still impressive and made Nigerians proud.

"We have to celebrate her for the sacrifices and selfless service to the nation," posted Olufemisylvester.

And there is no denying that Chierika Ukogu has made history.

She is the first athlete to represent Nigeria in a rowing event at the Olympics.

Known to her friends as "Coco", she raised $15,000 (ยฃ11,400) herself as she said the Nigerian Rowing Federation was not able to give her financial support.

Image caption Snoop Dogg was not the first person to make the medal mistake

She was born in the US to Nigerian parents and became hooked on rowing at senior school. She continued to row at university - she plans to become a doctor.

"I put medical school on hold to dedicate my time to training," she said on her GoFundMe page.

"I hope that my athletic endeavours will inspire other Nigerians to take up rowing and experience the same joy I feel every time I'm on the water."

Her enthusiasm is a soothing balm to what has been a bumpy Rio ride for Nigeria - Africa's most populous nation.

The men's football team, playing for bronze later on Saturday, is Nigeria's only realistic medal hope.

The footballers only arrived hours before their first match. They had been delayed in the US city of Atlanta because of problems paying for their flight.

And Nigeria's Olympic kit only turned up a few days ago, after most athletes had completed their events.

For the popular Nigerian actress Genevieve Nnaji, Ukogu's success was all about "girl power".

Nnaji who also posted her praise on Instagram on Friday, but did not make the mistake about the medal.

She said: "She believed in herself, strangers believed in her.... That's how we change the narrative. Stop asking your country what she's done for you and start asking what you can do for her."

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