Melbourne 2006 Flop: What Stakeholders Say
While Nigerian athletes to the just concluded 18th Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia struggled to win medals, athlethes from other countries at par with Nigeria in previous editions, won medals effortlessly. Jamaica won the two sprints gold, Australia virtually won all available medals. Even three of the gold medals won by Nigeria came from Special Sports.
Senior Correspondent, Peter Edema, went to town to seek the opinions of Nigerians concerning Nigeria’s outing at the Games, particularly against the background of some unaccredited athletes making it to Melbourne
It’s Nigeria’s Worst Outing At The Games
This is Nigeria’s worst outing in Commonwealth Games since I was born. In a sane country, the Sports Minister, Seidu Samaila Sambawa, should have resigned after the Games. In 1954, we won a gold in Long Jump through Late Emmanuel Ifeajuna, then a student of the University of Ibadan, we were very good in Long Jump, Triple Jump, and High Jump among others up to the time of Yusuf Ali. In boxing also, we were equally good talk less of athletics. But today, Nigerians don’t know anything about jumps, we have lost our fame in boxing, we no longer participate in long distance races, lost our placement in shot put, discuss, javelin, our glory in track and field is long dead and yet Ambassador Hart came back to say Nigerian athletes have done well. We even lost out in the relays. We used to be a force to reckon with in Table Tennis, but God bless Segun Toriola and Monday Merotohoun that managed to squeeze us a gold. The Ministry of Sports should explain whether they are developing sports or ruining it. Nigerians should be told if the Sports Ministry is developing sports or their selfish interests.
Ajunwa Absolves Athletes, Technical Officials Of Blame
Atlanta’96 Olympic gold medallist and Nigeria first Olympic gold medalist, Chioma Ajunwa-Opara, has absolved athletes and technical officials that attended the just concluded Commonwealth Games in Australia of poor performance.
“Athletes and technical officials should not be blamed for the country flop at the Commonwealth Games but Sports administrators.
“We should not make athletes and technical officials as scapegoats whenever we perform poorly at any international competition. Technical officials will stay for many years without updating their skills, no coaching course or seminars, how do you expect them to improve. Our sports administrators should look into our poor performances at every world sports gathering in recent times and do what they are expected to do for the future success in our sports.”
“Those calling on athletes to retire are ignorant of what they are saying. When we have not discovered those that should take over from them why hurry them to an untimely retirement”, she querried. “We are not doing enough to develop athletes capable of winning gold for the country at major Games. It takes a lot of money, up-to-date facilities, excellent athletes welfare, programme to develop athletes to winning laurels for the country at international meets that include scientific training.
“How many Nigerian athletes are making waves abroad, how many of them are injured and seeking for assistance, but to no avail, all these should be looked into seriously before anyone rights athletes and the technical officials off. “We should face the fact, it is only when we encourage our sports men and women that success will attend our performance.”
Excuses Won’t Help Us –Ebewele
Edo State Director of Sports, Brown Ebewele has chided officials that usually hide under Nigeria’s poor preparations to major tournaments to explain off the nation’s flop at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games in Australia.
Commenting on what he said was a monumental failure, Ebewele said Special Sports athletes who excelled at the Games trained under the same environment like their able bodied counterparts.
“I can’t comprehend excuses being given by these able bodied athletes. What about the disabled that won three out of Nigeria’s four gold medals Nigeria at the Games? If anyone should complain at all, it should be disabled athletes who were abandoned long time ago to cater for the able bodied athletes.”
According to the first Vice-President of Specials Sports Federation of Nigeria (SSFN), who said since it was now obvious that Nigeria could not do without special sports athletes, more attention should be directed towards their programmes and welfare. “Whether we like it or not, this nation can no longer do without special sports at the international sports arena. What the Sports Ministry should do now is to encourage the federation to continue to provide all they would need to excel”.
Continuing Ebewele asked, “Why should government keep paying training grants to the able bodied athletes who won nothing at the Games and left the disabled ones that won three gold medals with only their allowances to go home with, if we must move forward in sports, the trend most be reversed.”
The former Technical Director of the Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN) the nation’s athletes and officials have been giving the same excuses each time we fail to win at major international sports tournaments, and we must chose the sports that Nigeria would bank on and not depend on individuals
Our Performance Was Disappointing–Mayaki
“Our performance was disappointing, in that countries such as Jamaica that could not match us in track and field events in the past won both sprints gold. This shows that there are certain things they are doing well that we are either not doing well or not doing at all.
If not for special sports athletes, we would have won just a gold, what a shame. When last has our coaches’ updated themselves or the country sent them on courses? Even if the government fails in this direction, what stops our coaches from deliberately updating themselves? Nothing. But because most are civil servants, they know their salaries would be paid at the end of the month. If it is a system where salary is tied to performance like what obtains in the private sector, there would be a difference in attitude and approach.
“Training now is scientific and not the past camping styles of several months that we are still used to. If you look at our athletes, it looks as if they are retrogressing in performance while other countries’ athletes are progressing in performance”.
Sports Administrators Failed Us –Fabio
“We failed because those saddled with the responsibility of putting the nation’s sports on the right track have failed to do so’, was how veteran sports commentator Fabio Lanipekun saw it. “The Games have ended and we have seen the best of Team Nigeria. I think it is not good enough. Questions should be put across to the administrators to explain their actions and inactions in the Games . I am saying this because there were a lot of abnormalities. We are reaping the fruit of inadequate preparations since our sports officials are only interested in attending championships without providing the enabling environment for the athletes to excel. Imagine the Indian boxer stopping a Nigerian boxer in the Commonwealth Games. Boxing used to be one of Nigeria’s best sports in the Games, but today our boxers can no longer withstand their counterparts from India, even Ghana. We are no longer talking of the Cubans now. I think it is now time for us to look inward”.
Outing Is A Disappointment –Ogunkoya
“There is no reason to beat about the bush about this, our athletes disappointed us in Melbourne and I don’t see why it has to be that bad”, declared one of Nigeria’s oustanding athlete, Faliat Ogunkoya. “We know they had some problems before leaving Nigeria, as they had to leave without two of their best athletes in the sprint, but I did not expect it to be that bad. It is imperative for former athletes to meet and see how we can halt the slide. I have spoken to some of my colleagues such as Henry Amike, Sunday Bada and Chioma Ajunwa and they all agreed that we have to meet and talk about this slide in our athletics. We cannot pretend as if we do not see what is happening and the fact that some of us are involved in the running of the AFN is enough for us to be concerned”.
“If something urgent is not done, the future of athletics in the country looks bleak, but with concerted efforts it can be reversed. We cannot fold our arms and give up because we have a problem now and the earlier we realise too that there is a problem the better for us.”
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