Can Nigeria win a medal at Tokyo 2020? Victoria Macaulay has no doubts
NEW YORK (USA) - Nigeria center Victoria Macaulay feels that her country has what it takes to make history at Tokyo Olympics.
The Nigerians haven't lost a game on the continent of Africa since they finished third at 2015 Women's AfroBasket in Cameroon, making it a 16-0 winning streak, which includes their two victories at Women's Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament Africa held in November 2019 in Maputo.
"AS A PLAYER, MY GOAL HEADING TO THE OLYMPICS IS THE ULTIMATE GOAL WHICH IS WINNING THE GOLD MEDAL."
Despite the likes of Angola, Mali, Angola and DR Congo making appearances at the Olympics before, Nigeria remains the only African team to have recorded a win at the 2004 Athens Games.
That could change when Nigeria begin their Tokyo 2020 campaign in Group B alongside hosts Japan, France and reigning Olympic champions USA.
"This Nigerian team is completely different from the 2004 team," Macaulay told FIBA.basketball.
"With what I have seen of this team, I believe we are a much stronger team and in the areas that we lacked before, we have adjusted and grown as far as being an offensive threat in the post and guard positions. We are even stronger on the defensive end of the court and that will help us move past the first group stage of the Olympics this time around."
Ever since the 1.93m (6ft4) power forward/center made her debut for the D'Tigress at the FIBA Women's AfroBasket 2019, Macaulay has been vital to the team.
And having her name added to Nigeria's latest preliminary squad was only a sign of her importance to the two-time defending African champions.
Longest standing member of the Atlanta Dream, Elizabeth Williams will also be on the plane to Tokyo alongside Victoria Macaulay and ageless Aisha Balarabe who has continued to turn back the hands of time as the only member of the squad who has ever being to the Olympics (2004). pic.twitter.com/SfKjJNbzg8— #NBBF (@nbbfonline) July 6, 2021
Macaulay didn't feature for Nigeria at 2018 FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup held in Tenerife, Spain, but she was delighted to see Nigeria become the first African team to reach the Quarter-Finals in the tournament's history.
She averaged 6.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists in the FIBA Women's AfroBasket 2019 in Dakar. She also helped Nigeria in the 2020 FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournaments in Belgrade where Nigeria punched her ticket for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Nigeria played a number of friendly games over the past few weeks, which included a win against newly-crowned Women's EuroBasket Serbia.
"Our practices were productive and intense. We covered a lot of materials and we are learning how to play together as a team. I'm really excited to see where this journey will take us. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I'm just happy to be a part of it, to represent my country as a D’Tigress and the fight to win the gold medal [in Tokyo]."
Asked about Nigeria's Group B opponents, Macaulay said: "I believe Nigeria is strong enough to play and compete against whoever we come against. In my experience, I believe Nigeria has a chance of beating anybody when we are focused and put our mind on it.
"We are an aggressive team and learn from our mistakes. What we are weak in will become what we are strong in, defensively and offensively we prepare to be great and challenge ourselves to become even better day after day."
With regards to the test games the team played in Europe against Puerto Rico, Serbia, Belgium and Spain was a positive one noting that the win of two-third of the friendly games was revealing.
"For the game against Belgium, the starters were rested. We can compete and we have proven that. These friendly games have helped us prepare physically and mentally for what will come at the Olympics. It is homework for us and in the areas where we are not strong in, we are working on. There is a future for Nigeria and we will show the world that.
"As a player, my goal heading to the Olympics is the ultimate goal which is winning the gold medal taking it one game at a time."
Describing D'Tigress squad, Macaulay noted: "We have to make each other better and the only way to do that is working hard against each other in practices. We are a family. So whoever is in camp belongs. We are sisters and treat each other with the utmost respect. We are all rooting for each other and love working together on and off the court."