*As Ikoyi Club celebrates worthy Nigerian champions from Germany
Vice Chairman/Games Captain of the Swimming Section of Ikoyi Club, Oloyede Obatoyinbo, has described as ‘myth’ the presumption that swimming is not one sport where the black man can excel.
Speaking at the welcome party the club held at the weekend for the 42 children that won the first position at the recently concluded 46th International Swimming Competition in Neheim-Husten, Germany, Obatoyinbo said that for Nigeria to have emerged champions at this cadet level, proper grooming is all that is needed to excel at the senior level.
“It is not rocket science about swimming. At the competition in Germany, our kids swarm with Olympians. The like of Abeo Jackson of Ghana who was at the last Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil was at the competition. What is needed is to catch them young and begin proper training programme for them. If we get the support of sponsors and government, we can train them better to produce the desired results,” stressed Obatoyinbo.
He said that with several medals at stake in swimming events of either the Olympics or Commonwealth Games, Nigeria cannot continue to ignore the sport and be putting money into popular sports that are not producing results for the country.
“ Our kids have broken the myth that swimming is not for the black people. They competed against swimmers from 35 other clubs from seven countries in Germany and came out overall first. They won 42 gold, 39 silver and 35 bronze medals to place overall first. We equally had outstanding performances in 12 events including games records.”
The Ikoyi Club Swimming Section Games Captain hinted that normal age for the competition is nine years but the Nigerian team has some swimmers aged between six and seven years who are getting full attention of the coaches.
“By catching them young, we are already introducing them to the nitty-gritty of the sport. It is just a matter of time before these kids hit the limelight with the right funding for their training regimen.
“For the record, I want to state here that Ikoyi Club did not go to any other competition before arriving Germany. Yet we were able to finish ahead of clubs that went on pre competition training in Belgium, The Netherlands, UK etc. If we have good funding from either the corporate world or government, you can imagine what these children are capable of doing.
“I strongly belief we can make it to the Olympic and do well if we do the right things with our swimmers, most especially these young one who have been exposed to international competitions,” Obatoyinbo explained further.
He admitted that the major challenge the section is facing is funding. “ From around 28 kids two three years ago, we now have over 100 children. We want to implore more sponsors to come to our aid. This year we had three banks and some other sponsors from the telcoms and oil and gas. We are looking at getting core sponsors to pick our participation in other competitions before arriving Germany to defend our title next year.”
Amongst the swimmers that represented Ikoyi Club in Germany were the duo of Omo-Oluwani Obatoyinbo and Kitan Adeniji. Obatoyinbo and Adeniji were the two swimmers that represented Nigeria at the last African Junior Championships in Egypt. Obatoyinbo won two bronze medals in 50m freestyle and 50m backstroke.
He told THISDAY that the experience in Germany has further prepared him for what to expect at top competitions.
Little Liana Olaseinde-Rhodes and her two sisters, Siana and Arife spoke brilliantly about their experiences in Germany.
“I won one gold, one silver, one bronze and a certificate in 50m freestyle, butterfly, breaststroke and backstroke. I hope to win more medals next year,” observed Siana.
Twelve-year old Chiamaka Kanu who won three gold, one silver and two bronze medals however did not show excitement in competing for Nigeria.
Asked if she would want to go to either the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games in Nigerian green and white colours, she retorted: “Nigeria? I don’t know. I prefer going to a country where there are better training facilities. May be if things improve, I may represent Nigeria.”
She however showed enthusiasm to meet American legend of the sport, Michael Phelps. “I would love to meet Phelps and ask him the secret behind all the Olympic gold medals he has won in swimming.
In some of the star events, the Ikoyi Club girls came first in the 4x100m Freestyle relay while the boys finished second in the Medley relay team. The swimmers who participated in the Boys’ Freestyle relay include; Adewole Adekoya, Akaolisa Nweze, Toluwalase Magbagbeola, and Olaseni Adekeye all of who achieved sub 1.10:00. They are 13 years of age.
The Girls’ Freestyle relay team included; Chiamaka Kanu, Iman Adama, Layomi Odusanya and Maria Perner while the quartet of Adewole Adekoya, Akaolisa Nweze, Luka Okoli, and Olaseni Adekeye anchored the Boys’ Medley relay
The trio of Pius Adegboye, Barakumo Loya and Tough Atelemo were the coaches that led the Ikoyi Club 1938 children to win the competition in Germany.