Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
After years of neglect competitive sporting activities are set to return in secondary schools across Abia State following the intervention of Nigeriaâ€™s sports icon, Chioma Ajunwa-Opara who has initiated a programme of reviving grassroots sports in the state through her foundation. President of Chioma Ajunwa Foundation, Mrs. Chioma Ajunwa-Opara made this known at a press conference at Umuahia Stadium where she outlined the modus operandi of the project aimed at discovering and nurturing budding talents in sports.
To this end, the Olympic gold medalist said that plans have been concluded for the hosting of Chioma Ajunwa Under 16 Athletics Championships 2018 for Secondary Schools in Abia with students vying for honours at the Umuahia Township Stadium.
She said that the championship, which is slated to run from March 27 to 29, was a product of a partnership between her Foundation and Abia State Government, adding that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu â€œhas given us the mandate to revive sports in Abia.â€
Ajunwa explained that the new talents discovered at the championship would be nurtured â€œto a certain level before exposing them to the outside worldâ€ thereby putting them in good stead to win honours for themselves and nation.
According to her, the budding sports talents would be availed of the opportunities of developing their talents and pursuing their academic career through scholarship grants that schools in the United States and Europe usually made available to Nigerian athletes.
The multi talented sports woman, who made her mark in long jump, said that apart from athletics her Foundation would equally revive other sports including handball, wrestling, football, basketball, tennis, power lifting, among others.
She said that while reviving sports and discovering new talents her Foundation would at the same time be creating awareness of drug abuse and its negative impact on athletes, adding that she would not like any Nigerian athlete to fall into the trap of drug abuse.
In his contribution the director general of Chioma Ajunwa Foundation, Mr. Henry Amike regretted that while sports has become a big industry the world over Nigeria has remained an exception hence the need to change the narrative.
He said cash rewards would be given to all winners in the different categories of the athletic championship while the overall best three would go home with â€œmouth watering prizes.â€
â€œWe want to prove it to all that Nigerian youths are not doing well in sports because the encouragement is not there,â€ he said, adding that with the enabling environment the glory days of sports in Nigeria would return.
Abia State Commissioner for Sports, Dr. Martins Okoji assured that the state governor was determined to provide the enabling environment for sporting activities to flourish and talents blossom in Godâ€™s Own State.
He said that his agenda when he was assigned to the Sports Ministry last November was to develop sports at the grassroots level hence the partnership with the Chioma Ajunwa Foundation has come at the right time.
â€œIt is the beginning of good things that will come to Abia State in the area of sports,â€ he said.