Houstonian and WNBA star Nneka Ogwumike won’t get the chance to represent her homeland of Nigeria in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics after all.
Ogwumike and Elizabeth Williams, who also plays in the WNBA, had their appeal to compete with the Nigerian women’s basketball team rejected this week by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Both players initially had their petitions denied by FIBA, the international basketball governing body, on the basis that they had been members of the U.S. national team for too long.
The major sticking point is that the Nigeria Basketball Federation roster submitted to the Nigeria Olympic Committee and FIBA did not have Ogwumike and Williams names on it.
The two had played for USA after they turned 17 and had participated in the qualifying process for the Tokyo Olympics, which are a year delayed because of the pandemic. They had requested an exceptional change of their national status, but FIBA denied them based on established guidelines.
Ogwumike, who is from Tomball and later starred at Cy-Fair High School (2004-08) before heading to Stanford, has dual citizenship dual citizenship in the U.S and Nigeria along with her basketball players sisters. Ogwumike’s parents, Peter and Ify, are from Nigeria but moved to America prior to their daughters being born.
Ogwumike’s sisters, Chiney and Erica are both on the Nigerian roster, but their older sister was not included on the Nigerian roster submitted for the 2021 Games. Chiney has the one permitted naturalized spot on the Nigerian team while Erica is part of the nation’s roster.
“Although both players had played for USA after the age of 17 and participated in the qualifying process to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (in February 2020 and September 2019, respectively), they recently requested an exceptional change of their national status, which FIBA declined under the applicable rules,” FIBA explained on its website. “In any event, the players would have to wait for a three-year period since their last game with the USA to be eligible to play at the Olympics, as per Bye-law to Rule 41 of the Olympic Charter.”
The rejected appeal by CAS was met with disappointment from Nigeria. The women’s national team has always struggled and this is just the second time in the 45-year history of Olympic women’s basketball that Nigeria has even made it to the Games.
The additions of Ogwumike and Williams could have at least made the Nigerian’s run interesting these next couple of weeks.
“Allow them the opportunity to help grow the game,” Nigerian women’s coach Otis Hughley Jr. said this week. “That continent would just be turned on its head for basketball, in a good way. You have no idea how many lives would be impacted and changed for the ages.”
Ogwumike, 31, is the former No.1 overall pick of the Los Angeles Sparks. The 6-foot-2 power forward is a six-time WNBA All-Star, a former MVP and WNBA champion. She also led Cy-Fair to the Class 5A state championship her senior season.