With barely six weeks to the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Nigerians have been told in clear terms not to blame the country’s athletes if they return empty-handed like it happened four years ago in London.
While reviewing Team Nigeria’s third-place finish last weekend at the African Athletics Championship in Durban, South Africa, President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Chief Solomon Ogba, insisted wednesday that poor funding was hampering the right preparations for podium placement at Rio2016.
“Nobody should blame the athletes if they fail to medal. As I speak with you, the Sports Ministry in Abuja has not received the money to enable the teams embark on the type of preparations to earn Nigeria medals at the Games,” observed the AFN chief who also doubles a vice president of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC).
Ogba denied claims that Nigerian athletes have completed the first phase of camping for the Rio Olympics.
“As far as athletics is concerned, we have not done any camping. I am saying this because 75 per cent of the athletes we are taking to Rio are not based in Nigeria. If you gather three or four athletes somewhere and you call that first phrase of camping, to us in AFN, that is not camping,” observed Ogba.
However, the AFN president is looking forward to Nigeria’s national trials scheduled to hold in Sapele, Delta State between July 7 and 9 to enable the relay teams yet to qualify for the Games to make the final cut.
“The period of these trials will be used for the Warri Relays. As we speak, South Africa, Ghana and other countries have confirmed their participation for the Warri Relays and it is good for our relay teams to meet the standard.”
The former Delta State commissioner for sport also confirmed that over 20 US-based Nigerian athletes have booked their flights to be part of the trials in Sapele. “Any anyone who meets the Olympic qualification mark would be refunded the money he spent on coming down for the trials.”
He exonerated Nigeria’s biggest hope for medal in the track & field team, Blessing Okagbare-Ighotegunor from blame skipping the African Championship in Durban.
“Blessing (Okagbare) made attempts to secure South African visas to join the team in Durban. We were informed of her predicament. It was for her not to be idle that weekend that she was entered late for the Madrid meet,” stressed the AFN president.
Despite Nigeria’s drop to third position from the second place two years ago in Morocco, Ogba said the result was not a bad one when viewed from the manner the team departed for South Africa.
“At a point we were not sure of attending the championship. For us to still be able to win the medals we came back with was through the efforts of the athletes.
“We actually projected to win seven gold medals to finish second in Durban, but an athlete like Doreen Amata could not even repeat what she was jumping before now. Some of them qualified for the Rio Olympics Games since last year, but from what we saw in Durban, there is need for us to do away with all that. We have to separate the real contenders from pretenders for us to have hope of winning medals in Rio,” concludes Ogba.