Nigeria to feature in IAAF U-20 Championships despite cash crunch

Solomon Ogba, the President, Athletics Federation of Nigeria

Solomon Ogba, the President, Athletics Federation of Nigeria

With less than eight days to the commencement of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World U-20 Championships, the national junior athletes may not go into camping for the competition.

But Solomon Ogba, the President, Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), has said that even without camping, the junior athletes will feature in the competition in Poland.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the championships are to hold from July 19 to July 24 in Bydgoszcz, Poland.

Ogba, who gave an indication that funds were not forthcoming for the athletes to feature in international tournaments, told NAN that he would ensure their participation.

For me, the young athletes must go for the world championships. I am really concerned because they are young and they need the exposure.

It must be understood that these athletes are the future of Nigerian sports, if they are not encouraged to participate in international events, they will not develop,’’ he said.

Reacting to the delay in releasing the names of athletes for the world championships, Ogba said: “We wanted to conclude the Olympics trials and Confederation of Africa Athletics (CAA) Grand Prix’’.

It will be recalled that the All Nigeria Athletics Championships, meant to select Nigeria’s representative to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games held in Sapele, Delta, from July 7 to July 9.

Also the Confederation of Africa Athletics (CAA) Grand Prix’’ held in Sapele too on July 9.

Athletics enthusiasts who spoke to NAN expressed the view that athletes who would win medals at the World U-20 Championships would be due to commitment and not adequate preparation.

In spite of the cash crunch affecting the country’s sports, the enthusiasts are hopeful that the athletes will prove their mettle like their senior counterparts who participated in the African Athletics Senior Championships.

The Nigerian athletes to the African Athletics Senior Championships in Durban, South Africa in June came third on the medals table, winning five gold, five silver and six bronze.

Some fans had blamed the result they considered inadequate for Nigeria on poor preparation and late arrival at the competition’s venue.

A coach with the University of Benin, Kayode Yaya, said that the young athletes that would be eventually selected should have a winning spirit.

He added that their commitment and talent would exhibit them to the world.

They should have a winning spirit, the big picture is what sets them on the world stage, it is one of the criteria that will eventually graduate them to the senior category,’’ he said.

Renowned athletics coach Tobias Igwe said he was hopeful that the athletes would not disappoint the country in spite of lack of funds and motivation.

NAN reports that 18 out of 19 athletes that represented the country at the 2014 edition in Eugene, U.S., crashed out at an early stage, though Divine Oduduru won their only silver medal.

The enthusiasts are hopeful that the championships which served as the platform for world beaters will also be a launch pad for these young ones.

The likes of Mary Onyali, a 200m silver medallist in 1986, Falilat Ogunkoya, 200m gold medallist in 1986 participated in the competition in their days.

Also, Francis Obikwelu, a 100m and 200m gold medallist in 1996 and Olabisi Abolaji, a 400m gold medallist in 1994 shot to stardom from the championships.

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