By Onochie Anibeze Reporting from London
*Regrets pressure on Okagbare
Pinnick Amaju tried to analyse Nigeria’s chances of winning a gold medal here and asked “how can a whole country of more than 150 million be chasing one gold?”
It was clear he meant the country’s expectations on Blessing Okagbare, Nigeria’s brightest medal prospect based on the build-up to the Olympics.
Blessing won the 100m races in Crystal Palace and in Monaco just before the games began. She ran her personal best of 10.96 to win races that included the best in the world. The Delta supported athlete is in her best shape but Amaju does not like it that the whole country looks up to one athlete for an Olympic feat.
“That’s some pressure,” he says while watching swimming and noting the impact Chinese are making in a sport that they were not known for few years back. Ye Shewen had just won the gold in the 400m Individual Medley event for women in a world record and the 16 year old thrilled all including Amaju.
“This is planning and strategising,” Amaju says of the Chinese who are now challenging USA, Russia, Germany and the rest of the world in sports.
“In Nigeria, a minister is appointed today and he begins to talk about winning gold in the Olympics without planning for it and without his predecessor doing anything about it. Chinese are reaping what they sowed about ten years ago. It didn’t start now.”
Amaju looks at different tribes in Nigeria and thanks God for the different potentials He has endowed them with but frowns at the authorities for not tapping into them to help Nigeria become world beaters.
“I’m just reading about the Mumuye people in Taraba State. They fought wars with Bows and Arrows and it is said that they are so good that they can target a baby being carried by a woman and the arrow will hit the target without hurting the mother.
They are like snipers. What’s the difference between Bow and Arrow and Archery that is giving countries gold medals? Can’t we train them in this sport since the potential is there? Can’t we make them acquire the technicalities? In the South South we have men and women who go to the sea as early as 4 am paddling canoes. We have them living in the waters.
I believe that we can produce athletes for Rowing from these areas. I also don’t believe that blacks cannot do well in swimming. We have Nemina Tebisan who won eight gold medals from Kaduna Sports Festival, Blessing Forcados that won seven from Abeokuta Games and in their families you still see the younger ones who swim and we have not tried to link these to their genes and tried to invest in them? Nigerian swimmers practice in Rivers and you can imagine if something great is done about them. We have the topography and weather to produce long distance runners from the Plateau areas but we do nothing about these things and keep on shouting that we must go back to the basics without action.
Yes, the slogan in Nigeria now is going back to the basics. But nobody does anything to go back to the basics. The few athletes doing well are being propelled by their individual efforts and in just one or two cases supported by the leadership of their federations. Our sports festival has failed us and yet the sports ministry does not have any vision to change it.
They ban senior athletes and say it’s to discover new athletes. The guy who won the 100m in Kaduna was 28 years and the one who won in Rivers was 29. What great discoveries that they have made? We fail to plan and want to win at the Olympics. It doesn’t work that way.
Today, I’m reaping from the plan Solomon Ogba made as commissioner of sports. The government invested in sports and the government of Emmanuel Uduaghan is consolidating. That’s why most of these athletes Nigeria is presenting here at the Olympics are Delta athletes.
And I believe that Nigeria can do better. When we catch athletes young we must integrate them into institutionalised system like schools which have sports curriculum but unfortunately we don’t have them. We must begin to develop them.
And with time we begin to expose them to foreign training or pave way for them to earn scholarships abroad to take them to another level. The system can be worked out. Jamaica did and China is doing it now. But we talk and do nothing.”
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