Nigeria’s fastest man, Seye Ogunlewe on The Guardian TV

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My performance wasn't what I expected but I'll be back stronger, says Nigeria's fastest man
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My performance wasn't what I expected but I'll be back stronger, says Nigeria's fastest man
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• Says I will tell Buhari to put best sports system in place if I meet him

The 2016 Rio Olympic Games has come and gone, but for Nigeria’s fastest man, Seye Ogunlewe, the memories will continue to linger on. Ogunlewe became Nigeria’s most sought-after athlete, when he stunned a strong field in the men’s 100m final at the National Championships held in Warri, Delta State, racing to his first national title with a time of 10.19s. It equaled his Season’s Best (SB). He retained his 100m title during the All Nigerian Open championship held in Sapele, also in Delta State, few weeks to the Rio Olympics.

But before Team Nigeria departed for Rio, only a few athletics followers in the country expected much from the likes of Ogunlewe, Ogho-Oghene Egwero and even Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor based on a number of factors arising mainly from poor preparation of the team by the government.

However, some of the athletes were able to brave all odds when hostilities began in Rio. They include long jump sensation, Ese Brume, who made it to the final and finished fifth in the midst of top stars, while another young athlete, Divine Oduduru, made big headline when he finished second behind World’s fastest man, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt on his way to the semifinal in the 200m.

It was not so good for the United Kingdom (UK)-based Ogunlewe, who could not make it to the semi-finals of the 100m in Rio, as he crashed out in the heat where he ran 10.26s and finished fourth.

With the Rio Olympic Games over, Ogunlewe says preparation for the next Olympic Games should begin in earliest. He wants Nigerian government to emulate the school programmes put in place by their Jamaican counterparts, which he said, is the brain behind their success story in athletics.Speaking on The Guardian TV on Wednesday in Lagos, Ogunlewe said: “If I have the opportunity of meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, I will tell him to put in place the best sports system for Nigerian athletes so that there will be no room for excuses in the future.

“There are a lot of talents in Nigeria, and with the best physiotherapist, nutritionist and others, our athletes can rule the world the same way the Jamaicans are doing at the moment. You don’t stumble on medals by chance. You don’t just wake up and pick a gold or silver medal from the ground. You have to work for it and it takes a long process and resources.

“At the moment, we have the best crop of athletes coming from Jamaica because there is a system in place. The Jamaican government put in place a school system that is working very well for the country. It enables the coaches to catch the athletes early, and before you know it, they start getting the results. That is what our government should do for us because the Jamaican athletes have just one head like us. Before you know it, Tokyo 2020 Olympics is here and we will still be talking or thinking of what to do. This is the time to plan ahead if we must achieve anything in 2020,” he stated

Though, Ogunlewe may not have achieved his heart desire at the Rio Olympics, he says participating in the Games gave him the opportunity of meeting with world class athletes like Bolt, Justin Gatlin of the United States and top tennis star, Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic.

He also spoke on the need for individuals and corporate organisations in Nigeria to rally round the athletes by providing sponsorship for them when the need arises. “I must thank Union Bank for the support given to me in preparation for the Rio Olympic Games. Unlike some other athletes, I didn’t really depend on government for my preparation for the Games. But if the government can support us, it will be good and I will always give my best for my family, friends and the country,” he said.

Asked if he was satisfied with his performance and that of Team Nigeria in Rio, Ogunlewe said: “I was not really happy with the way everything went in Rio, but I think it is the AFN or sports ministry officials that can say much on what happened. “If you support me during my preparation for the Games, you can ask me I couldn’t make it to the semifinal, but if you didn’t support me, you can’t ask me such question.”

The sprinter was born with a silver spoon. He is the son of former Minister of Works, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe. But his rich family background not withstanding, the junior Ogunlewe’s choice to embrace sports, which is regarded for people in his category as mere recreation.For some Nigerians, particularly his kinsmen in Ikorodu, Lagos, where the family hails from, the junior Ogunlewe is expected to face his studies squarely so that he can take over the mantle of leadership from where his father stopped as a politician and top government functionary.

Since the days of Modupe Oshikoya, who ruled the Nigerian sports scene, particularly in track and field, Seye Ogunlewe is the next track and field star to emerge from the zone. Oshikoya competed in the women’s sprint and long jump events during her career and was part of Nigeria’s contingent to Munich ’72 Olympic Games. She went on to win a total of five gold medals at the second All-Africa Games, which Nigeria hosted in 1973 in Lagos.

The other top athlete to emerge from Ikorodu is female football star, Asisat Oshoala, who currently features for Arsenal Ladies in London, where the sprinter, Seye Ogunlewe is also based.In fact, Seye Ogunlewe’s first love was the round leather game, football, but it was one of his teachers who made him to focus on athletics after identifying his potential during sports competition in secondary school. That was during his secondary school days in Nigeria.

In one of his interviews before the Rio Olympic Games, Ogunlewe said: “I actually started with football, but I noticed that I was quick on the ball and with the advice of one of my teachers, I started doing athletics while I was at Atlantic Hall. We did a few trials where I did fairly well and I started racing for my house in junior class one.

“I must also acknowledge the support of one of my teachers, Mr. Nwigwe, who identified that I had the potential to do well in athletics. Also I must recognise the huge role played by the school head of sports, Mrs. Akande (nee Oketade) who played a major role in my taking to athletics,” he said.

According to him, it was Akande, who listed him in the school relay teams as a junior student and he performed very well in the various meets he attended. After his secondary education, Ogunlewe moved to United Kingdom to further his education where he combined education with his athletics career.

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