UI chess team at NUGA 2022

It is no longer news that NUGA, which is undoubtedly the largest gathering of sportsmen from universities across Nigeria has been concluded. Records have been broken and new ones have been set. Memories have been made and interestingly, trends have continued unabatedly.

In UI’s case, it was a story of ups and downs, as the ‘first and the best’ ranked distant 16th of the 57 universities that clinched a medal in the 12-day affair that took place in Lagos.

UNIPORT dominated the games again this year as they topped the medal’s table with a total of 120 medals  while the host institution, UNILAG garnered 86 medals.

In an interview with ABH Press, a member of UI chess team, Milicent Maduka maintained that nobody arrived at the NUGA games with the aim of losing. While heaping praise on the sportsmen and sportswomen that represented UI, she noted that other schools didn’t also come to play.

Milicent, who was a first timer at NUGA described her experience as something memorable and an opportunity to hone her skills in the game of chess.

“This was my first NUGA games so I don’t really have what to contrast it with but the competition was amazing in my books. I got to meet a lot of players from different schools and get an idea of how strong my skills are”, she said.

The UI chess team happens to be the most decorated in the UI contingent in this year’s University games, with 2 gold medals and 3 bronze medals accounting for a quarter of UI’s total winnings.

She further revealed that the victory didn’t just come easy, as she and her team went through a lot of preparation to pull off that amazing feat in Lagos.

“The process that led up to victory started since last year I guess. Started with trainings for Pre-NUGA and then training for NUGA. Countless hours of training every week, sacrificing school work and other extracurricular activities. Reading chess books and watching chess videos. At some point, chess wasn’t just a game you play for fun but actual work”, she said.

She equally payed tribute to all her teammates, identifying them as her strong point. While noting that the chess tournament was a team sport as much as it was an individual sport, she eulogised her team for the good work done, as she claimed that “without a strong team, a single strong player can’t really make a difference”.

“Everyday was a challenge. During the tournament, the mental exhaustion was real. It was hard recalling or seeing accurate moves or is it the playing about 7hrs a day? Or even before the tournament, having to go to UI everyday for trainings while still juggling classes here in UCH. Surmounting it all was just trying to find a balance and knowing when to withdraw and recharge”, she continued.

Inspite of the fact that the chess team did so well at the NUGA games, very little had been said about it and to Milicent, this didn’t come off as a surprise because she felt people hardly relate with chess but she wants more people to hear and know about chess.

“Hmmm. I didn’t really expect much to be said as people hardly relate with chess, but I did expect a little more recognition for our efforts especially considering as the chess team was the one that delivered the only two gold medals UI got at NUGA. All in all, most of my team members don’t care about the recognition per se, we just want more people to be interested in the game and get the right resources to improve the game in UI”, she concluded.

Next year, all road leads to the University of Jos, as they will be hosting the 27th edition of the NUGA games.

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