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Lessons from Gold Coast 2018 Games

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Lessons from Gold Coast 2018 Games

Nigeria is a great sporting nation but the country is yet to imbibe the ideals from other top countries to make her athletes compete and rub shoulders with the best athletes in the world.
After every competition, the administrators will always come out to tell Nigerians that the preparations for the next event will start soon. By now, people are used to such pronouncements.
The 21st Commonwealth Games ended at the weekend in Gold Coast, Australia, with many lessons to be learnt by Nigerian administrators and athletes.

We appreciate the commitment and dexterity of the athletes who toiled to make podium appearances for Nigeria. We make bold to say the preparation for the just-concluded competition was not adequate. The training tour promised by the ministry of sports never materialized and many of those athletes camped in Nigeria did not eventually make it to Australia. The athletes based abroad joined their respective colleagues in Australia rather than Nigeria.

The idea of presenting athletes to the Nigeria Olympic Committee is fast becoming a thing of the past as the sports ministry took charge of the entire operations of Team Nigeria. The wrestling team had a great preparation due to the African Wrestling Championship which took place in Port Harcourt in February. Rivers State Government did well by taking care of the athletes all through. Nigeria emerged overall first at the competition and the form was taken to the competition as Blessing Oborodudu, Aminat Adeniyi and Odunayo Adekuoroye clinched gold. It is instructive to stress that the country did not prepare the wrestlers for the games.

The climax of the entire event was the 100m finals as Michelle-Lee Ahye of Trinidad and Tobago won at a time of 11.14 secs. Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare has ran better time this term but did not feature in the flat events. Team Nigeria’s Jennifer Madu, Isoken Igbinosun and Joy Udo-Gabriel competed and crashed out in semis with 11.59 sec, 11.85 secs and 11.53 secs respectively.

The Men’s 100m saw two South Africans – Akanni Simbine and Henricho Bruintjies – clinch a stunning gold and silver finish while favourite Jamaican, Yohan Blake, settled for bronze ahead of Nigeria’s Seye Ogunlewe who was 4th while Enoch Adegoke came 7th also in the final. Egwero Ogho-Oghene crashed out in the semis.

Simbine who was 5th at the 2016 Olympics won in 10.03 secs while his compatriot Bruintjies returned 10.17 secs. It is strange that Jamaicans are not the ones denying Nigeria medals in sprints but South Africans. The country cannot currently boast of quality sprinters that can appear in the finals of a global event except Okagbare. There is no conscious effort to discover and groom young athletes to maintain the country’s pedigree in sprints.

In Africa, there are sprinters who are better than ours. We recall Nigerian sprinters taking part in the finals of 100m at the Olympics and world athletics championship but this is fast becoming a mirage. Marie-Josée Ta Lou and Murielle Ahouré (both of Cote d’Ivoire) are the fastest in Africa ahead of Okagbare. In the male cadre, the country’s men are nowhere as two South Africans – Simbine and Roscoe Engel – are the best on the continent.

We urge the Ministry of Sports to send coaches to the schools and the grassroots to fish out talents in sprints which is an area the country has been noted for in the past decades. It is important to regain the lost glory in this area and encroach in other areas to boost chances of excellence at major events.

The lessons here are that of deliberate planning to bring out young talents who can stand the test of time for the country. The time to start preparation for the next edition is now rather than starting three months to the event.
Competitions like Commonwealth Games, All Africa Games and the Olympic Games deserve good preparation, including a training tour which will make the athletes to concentrate and perfect their readiness for the event.

In the past, it is certain that Team Nigeria athletes will train in countries relevant to their sport disciplines. For example, combat sports go to Cuba, Table Tennis players do travel to China while track and field athletes head for the USA. This tradition must return to enable athletes head for competition in tip-top shape.

It was ridiculous that due to financial constraints, the ministry dictated the number of athletes that each of the sports federation presented at the Games.
Special Sports athletes have always been consistent and they again demonstrated this in Australia.

We hereby charge the authorities in sports to place better attention to Special Sports athletes. Competitions should be organized for them to keep their shape and get better. The first four gold medals won at the event were won by para-athletes and so they deserve better attention.
We commend the entire contingent of Nigeria to the games for their discipline as we urge the ministry of sports and the NOC to always prepare the athletes better for future games.

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