A Nigerian gold medallist, Chioma Ajunwan-Opara, has commended the Federal Government for postponing the National Sports Festival (NSF) tagged: `Edo 2020’ over coronavirus pandemic.
Ajuwan-Opara made the commendation in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos on Friday while reacting to the postponement of the event and other issues relating to athletics in Nigeria.
The gold medalist, who is also an Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Human Trafficking, Alagbon-Ikoyi Lagos, said COVID-19 was fast spreading to different parts of the world.
According to her, every country must be interested in safety of its citizens and I thank God for what my country has done, (postponing the NSF). Is what they were supposed to do and they did it fast in order not to put the citizens in danger.
“We know that the coronavirus is everywhere now and Nigeria is taking the right steps by postponing the date of the National Sports Festival,” she said.
Ajunwan-Opara, however, expressed regret over the participation of Nigerian international athletes at the NSF, which she said was a platform to groom upcoming athletes that would replace the international ones when they retired.
She said the issue had bothered her mind for long without having answer as to why such should happen.
She noted that NSF was supposed to be a competition to identify, groom the new athletes to represent Nigeria in future international competitions.
“What confuses me here is that NSF has now become a competition where all our international athletes are coming to take part.
“I don’t know what we seem to achieve in allowing international athletes who have been representing this country, competing all around Europe to come and participate with the younger athletes.
“The NSF is for new talents from youth games; those from the clubs that are trying to find their feet to start competing for the nationals.
“During my time, NSF was meant for people in Nigeria to get new talents and new breeds that will be able to participate in the open championship.
“It is only in Nigeria open championship that we normally bring in international athletes. To me personally, we are not giving the new breeds chance to grow,’’ Ajunwa-Opara said.
According to her, we allowed the international ones to over shadow them (national athletes).
The gold medalist advised the organisers of NSF to allow the event to be for national athletes and not internationals, stressing that NSF was the only event that states enjoyed participating in and hoped to win medals because they were locals.
“The country as a whole is not gaining anything. It is only states that want to win medals.
“Should we do the right thing at the right time, allow the new breeds to have their platform to showcase their talents and come to national level.
“Sometimes ago, they plan to abolish the festival, I am glad they brought it up this year.
“It is a welcome development for athletes from schools to grow,” she said.
On the part of international athletes participating in NSF, Ajunwan-Opara wondered what they intend to achieve by competing with local athletes from schools, when they were already competing with the best in the world.
She said such competition did not give them respect as international athletes, noting that many African international athletes did not participate in some continental championship, in spite of their countries desire for such.
“When you look at some of our African championships, some African international athletes do not come to participate, because to them, it doesn’t give them respect.
“Although, their countries would want them to represent them so as to have over all winning.
“The athletes themselves know that such championship does not add to their profile and they don’t have the needed challenge from such competition.
“They need competition that would challenge them to become world class athletes,” she said.
Ajunwan-Opara advised the ex- international and current international athletes to play the part of a role model to the upcoming athletes by speaking to them, encouraging them on what they need to do to become better athlete.
She noted that in other clans, ex-internationals played the role of mothers, fathers, mentors to younger athletes, including providing training kits, saying that in Nigeria, some internationals wanted to be known alone forever.
The gold medallist said no nation grows in sports with such mentality.
On the division in AFN, she noted that “any divided house cannot stand.
According to her, the people concerned should come together and resolve the issue.
“Crisis cannot grow sports in Nigeria. I believe the Minister of Sports is capable in resolving the crisis,” Ajunwa-Opara said.
She, however, said that athletics’ game was not progressing in Nigerian as expected, saying there was the need to always go to the drawing board and catch them young.
Ajunwan-Opara said when a nation had many upcoming athletes you are nursing for international level, you would be sure of champions who could represent the nation at all times.
“If you keep on looking up on the international athletes without replacement, the old ones will not be there forever. How many years can they stay before their retirement.
“That means, the moment the old athletes are out and we have no new champions groomed up, we are in trouble. What the minister is doing now is great; it is a right thing in the right direction.
“All events to get new champions must be organised yearly. Those with good programmes to develop our sports should present them to the minister.
“If he looks at them and he sees that they are good, he will approve it,” she said. (NAN)
– Mar. 20, 2020 @ 15:12 GMT |