Team Nigeria won an African Games gold in an event it never counted as strong area of influence yesterday as American born gymnast, Uche Eke, delivered the precious medal in the pommel horse category, beating the Algerians and Egyptians to the top spot.
The 22 year-old graduate of computer science from University of Michigan in May of 2019 missed the entire last gymnastic season due to injury.
Winning the gold of the pommel horse category is Eke’s confirmation that his dream of going to Tokyo next year to become the first African to win a medal in gymnastics at the Olympics remains on course.
Born in Maryland, USA to Nigerian parents, Eke is drawing inspirations from the likes of Courtney Dike, Alex Iwobi and the current trio of Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga who remain committed to Nigeria despite having the option of representing other countries of their births.
However, Technical Director of the Gymnastics Federation of Nigeria (GFN), Anthony Asuquo, is not satisfied with the performance of the country’s athletes in the sport, insisting that whatever medals won so far did not come through performances during the competition.
Instead of the gymnastic federation taking credit for the gymnasts’ feats in the North African country, Asuquo opted to remain introspect, as he reckoned that the haul of medals in Morocco would send a wrong signal that things are being done right in the sport back home.
On the contrary, the founder of Abuja-based Tony International Gymnastics (TIG) Academy stressed during a radio sports programme monitored in Lagos yesterday that Nigeria has neglected youth development and grassroots efforts in the sector.
He alleged that the right selections of gymnasts were not made for the team to Maroc 2019, but pointed out that the country was only able to get medals in Morocco because other countries did not have full teams.
The international Federation of Gymnastics (IFG) certified coach and a member of the board of GFN stated further that the current leadership of the Nigerian body has done little since coming into office.
Asuquo, whose TIG won 10 gold, five silver and six bronze medals in the Junior Olympics in South Africa, had earlier alleged that GFN President, Prince Kelvin Erhunwmunse brought inexperienced people into the board, which he claims led to division, while the leader did not allow him and others to perform their duties.
“We should not be proud that we got these medals because they did not come from our efforts, but by default.
“The only reason why we got these medals is because other countries did not have full teams to the competition, and they were penalized,” Asuquo concluded.