PRIZREN (Kosovo) – Nigeria’s most decorated basketball player – male or female – Aisha Balarabe is eyeing another Olympics appearance before calling it quits on her 17-year professional career next summer if D’Tigress qualify for the 2020 edition in Japan.
Balarabe, who tied the knot in January previously known as Aisha Mohammed, believes that qualification to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will be the perfect sendoff before she turns her focus on starting and raising a family – something dear to her heart.
The 33-year old has won four FIBA Women AfroBasket titles stretching back from 2003, 2005, 2017 and 2019 – a feat that sets her apart from the rest but also motivates her to play yet again at the prestigious Olympics.
“IT IS GOING TO BE AMAZING IF WE QUALIFY FOR THE TOKYO 2020 OLYMPICS. I AM SO EXCITED AND LOOKING FORWARD TO THE QUALIFICATION TOURNAMENTS.”
Very soft spoken, always joyful and positive, Balarabe made her debut for Nigeria back in 2002 and has been part of the national team setup for the past 17 years including captaining D’Tigress to the continental title in 2017 in Bamako, Mali.
At 1.93m (6ft4in), she has over the years brought massive experience to the team most importantly in the paint contributing on both ends of the court and has also helped to inaugurate the younger players into the team.
The inclusion of the dynamic center pairing of Victoria Macaulay and Elo Edeferioka as well as efficient forwards in Atonye Nyingifa and Ify Ibekwe have given D’Tigress a new dimension in the paint and Balarabe can be confident that when she leaves eventually, the Nigerian front court will be in good hands – literally.
With such a setup, Nigerian fans can remain optimistic that even the change in the FIBA system of qualification to the Olympics moving away from the automatic placing for the African champions to two Olympic Qualifying Tournaments in November this year and next February will indeed see the best of their side.
Speaking exclusively to FIBA.basketball, Balarabe said, ” We are going to be prepared to go and play against the world and to prove how better a team we [D’Tigress] are.”
“Playing these many games will also help us to prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. It is going to be amazing if we qualify for the Olympics. I am so excited and looking forward to the qualification tournaments.”
D’Tigress made their Olympics debut at the Athens 2004 Olympics and when Balarabe reminisces the feeling, she wants to experience that again and now is the time to return to the big stage.
With two appearances at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in 2006 and 2018, heading to next year’s Olympic Games will be a welcome addition to her glorious career and what a seal that will be as she heads into retirement!