Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, has been hailed over his determined move to resuscitate long distance running in Nigeria after years of neglect.
A former National Steeplechase Record Holder and World Athletics Certified Lecturer, Professor Ezra Gunnen, applauded the minister’s move at the weekend, stressing that he has shown uncommon political will to see that long distance runners in Nigeria get the required training, exposure and opportunity to compete locally and internationally.
“Before now, middle and long distance development has never been a focus of any administration since the time of Air Commodore Anthony Ikazobor,” he recalled.
The former steeplechase record holder believes developing long distance programmes will provide outlets that will redirect the energy of youths into positive ventures of self-development and a source of pride to the nation, region and community.
”Failure to develop the potentials in youths is causing them to depend on government for everything and when it’s not forthcoming, they join all sorts of groups,” said Gunnen who is delighted the sports minister is going in the right direction with the project.
”Prosecuting the project requires the will power of the Federal Ministry of Sports to channel resources in the right direction once and for all. Once developed, sponsors and organizations interested in specific athletes will take over,” he said but warned the results of the project will not be immediate.
”Developing distance runners requires time, at least one and a half years of good training, recovery and competition. It is attainable but as a research
trial project unto the hands of few coaches,” he added and insists that the project of which he is a member of the committee inaugurated by the committee in June will commence almost immediately now with the relaxation of Covid-19 rules for non-contact sports in Nigeria.
Gunnen is not however happy that most governments, especially states and at the local levels are thinking of developing athletes outside the school system.
”Both must work together as parents will not allow their children to be in sport without education and so sport should be seen as an entrepreneur programmes for students that have the potentials. With what we have now, we are just wasting our youths,” he said and believes the sports minister’s bold moves in reforming sports generally and particularly with the long distance project will begin to correct some of these problems.
The committee has identified two training areas in Jos, Plateau State and Mambila in Taraba State to develop facilities for altitude training and Professor Gunnen heads the technical committee for the project.