Nigerian is Scrabble World Champion

Nigerian is Scrabble World Champion

BBC NEWS AT BBC.CO.UK/NEWS

Nigerians are congratulating countryman Wellington Jighere, who became the first African to win the English-language World Scrabble Championship.

The 32-year-old beat Englishman Lewis MacKay 4-0 in the final in Australia in November 2015. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was among those to congratulate him, saying he has “done the country proud.” Jighere said on his Facebook page that he felt he was playing with the “whole continent” behind him.

He added that it baffles him that he managed to win, given how tired he felt because he had not slept well in about a week. He told The Guardian newspaper that he had training to deal with the fatigue from the jet lag, but he also had to cope with 32 rounds of matches in four days before getting to the final in Perth.

Jighere and the five other members of the Nigerian team arrived in Australia only the day before the tournament started, so they had little chance to get over the 20-hour flight or the seven-hour time difference. Buhari phoned him in Perth to celebrate the performance and pass on his congratulations to all the players, who finished the competition as the best team.

The champion won $10,000. He had recently finished his national service after his graduation from university, but he took a few months off from looking for work to prepare for the championship.

The president of Nigeria’s Scrabble federation, Sulaiman Gora, told the BBC that Jighere is a quiet person whose “greatest strength is humility.” Gora, who also heads the Pan-African Scrabble federation, said the “whole country and the whole of Africa is celebrating this success.”

In 2008, Ivoirian Elisee Poka won the French-language Scrabble World Championship, and in 2015, Schelick Ilagou Rekawe from Gabon reached the final of that competition. He lost to New Zealander Nigel Richards, who does not speak French.

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