'Helpless’ Nigerian Athletes at Gold Coast

By Ikenna Okonkwo on 08/04/2018

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Youth and Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung

As this year’s Commonwealth Games gets underway in Queensland, Australia, one basic subject matter rest in the mind of many, especially sports lovers all over the world, and that is to continuously monitor how Athletes from various Nations are faring.

For Nigerians, their interest is certainly on their own representatives at the international multi-sport quadrennial event formally known as Gold Coast 2018.

Already, most Nigerian Athletes are present and are taking part in Boxing, Table Tennis, Para Table Tennis, Weightlifting, Athletics, Basketball, Wrestling, Para-Powerlifting and Para Athletics.

For the records, Nigeria has competed at 11 Commonwealth Games, right from 1950. Being a member of the Commonwealth, Nigeria missed out on four of this sporting fiesta in 1962, 1978 (in protest at New Zealand’s policies), 1986 and 1998.

However, since the country made its debut in the 1950 edition in Auckland, New Zealand, Nigeria’s profile at the Games has been on the rise. And so, Nigerian athletes have never failed to prove their mettle in placing the nation on the scoreboard of this global sporting feast.

In fact, one medal at every Game attended, including a sweeping 37 in 1994, have been won by Africa’s most populous country. In 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland, being the last outing before this term, witnessed another surge in the number of medals which Nigerians swept at the event. No fewer than 36 medals, comprising of 11 gold, 11 silver and 14 bronze were won, four years ago.

The feat achieved by Nigerian contingents then, attracted applause from all and sundry. The attainment which was a commendable progression of 33 medals won at 2010 version, staged in Delhi, India.

I remember with nostalgia how officials of the defunct National Sports Commission gave a blow to blow analysis of how Nigerian Athletes perfected their preparations plans and assured of better display at the 20th Commonwealth Games.

At the moment, the result already being churned out indicate performance so by the current team Nigeria. The reasons are not far-fetched.

In the build up to this edition (21st Commonwealth Games), many anomalies, ranging from Players welfare, training schedule and other shambolic preparatory considerations were cluttered beginning from December 17, 2017 when Abuja, Lagos and Portharcourt camps were launched.

Besides short period of engaging athletes in a close-camping, the treatment meted to them, triggered criticisms from varying quarters after series of complain.

Image result for okagbare

As usual, training equipment became an a hard-knot to crack and due to regular no-funding excuses, all Athletes including those who needed foreign exposure especially as it concerns training facilities were forced to begin and finalise their preparation in Nigeria unlike in the past, when they are meant to go for one tour or the other outside the shores of the country.

While camping in Abuja and any other space within, these athletes were subjected to mosquito bite and lack of adequate water supply among other issues.

At some point, some talented Athletes with medals’ prospect eloped from the camp and reportedly pledged alliance to another country, determined to do things right.

Prominent among those that abandoned their training site in portharcourt was Emmanuel Bamidele, an athlete who ran 45.28 seconds in the men’s 400m and was named in the 37-man squad after he emerged the best in that category during the trials conducted by Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN).

Reports had it that he might have been lured away by oil-rich nation, Qatar. As i put down this piece, no one has set eyes on the young Nigerian sportsman, though officials of AFN claimed that they could muster right replacement for him.

As if that was not enough, authorities within the Ministry of Youth and Sports development drew the attention of Nigerians on themselves after they refused to clear some female folks including veteran and Olympian, Olufunke Oshonaike meant to be part of 2018 Games.

The latest information has it that no fewer than 35 ‘non-team delegation’ sponsored by the federal government, riding on tax payers’ cash have already been pencilled down to be flown to Australia even when the Sports Minister earlier told whoever cares to listen that lack of funds limited approval of more sports and athletes to be listed for the 21st Commonwealth Games.

Making sure that these ‘so-called’ government officials get to Australia is not just the matter but heaps of ‘estacodes’ earmarked for them are quite disturbing. What it takes to sponsor one of them to be present at the games is proportionally same to what each athlete could require to represent the entire country and possibly make podium appearance.

Did I hear someone say it’s all about settling ‘the boys’ for political reasons, much so as 2019 general elections draw closer? Agreed! There is one form of politics or the other in sporting world, but not the kind that places more priority on Politicians than the real Actors, Athletes.

It’s only in Nigeria, such a bizarre is allowed to rear up and live on. My hands are already crossed, waiting to see how such shambolic style will make the present team Nigeria haul up to 36 medals, being the feat recorded at the last Commonwealth trip. After all, ‘all na change’.

Image result for okagbareI guess Nigerian Sprint star, Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor is still the toast of the Nation’s Sports officials in Gold coast even before taking part in any event, after the hardworking 200m record breaker received uncountable pleas to represent her country in two track and field programmes (100m and 200m) she was never primed to take part in.

The Delta-born fatest Woman in Nigeria is truly justified for her decision. After all, those who are supposed to make hay while the sun was shining refused to do so. Instead, they preferred to adopt their interest (political or parochial).

If they still reserve any form of human feelings within, shame and regret are expected to rest in their inner being. Why? Of all the sports, Nigeria has lost out in most categories of weightlifting, boxing, basketball among others within the first four days of the competition.

Many who are watching closely are now of the opinion that this will be one of the worst outings for team Nigeria in the past decades.

Image result for okagbareOkagbare

 

Source Whirlwindnews

Posted on April, 8 2018

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