Save weightlifting, ex-world champion tells minister

Sports Minister/Chairman of the NSC, Solomon Dalung

Sports Minister/Chairman of the NSC, Solomon Dalung

FORMER world bronze medalist and African champion in the over-75 kg women’s category, Bilkisu Musa, is a force to reckon with as far as the game of weightlifting is concerned in the country.

Musa, now a weightlifting coach with Jigawa state, was among female lifters who brought the game to limelight in this part of the world. That was the era, when Nigeria’s weightlifting was the talk in Africa.

Weightlifting is one of Team Nigeria’s focus points in next year’s Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and Bilkisu is highly worried with the ‘poor state’ of the game in the country.

“Everything about weightlifting seems to be getting worst and I feel the sports minister should do something about it very fast,” Bilkisu Musa told The Guardian in a telephone chat from her base in Jos, Plateau State, yesterday.

Apart from performing far below expectation at the 2015 All African Games in Congo, Nigerian lifters only made up the numbers at the just concluded World weightlifting championship in Houston, USA.

In Congo, Nigerian lifters could only pick eight gold, 18 silver and nine bronze medals, a far cry from the 17 gold, 12 silver and 7 bronze they won at Algiers 2007.

At the recent world championship in USA, Nigeria’s male lifter, Oluwatoyin Adesanmi, placed 11th, while tle leading female lifter in the country, Mariam Usman, placed a disappointing 17th. The decline in Usman’s performances in recent times is major worry for stakeholders in the game.

At Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, Mariam Usman lifted a total of 280kg in 6/6 attempts. A year later at Congo Brazzaville, she managed to lift 265kg in 4/6 attempts. Her performance got worst at the recent World Championship in Houston, USA, where she could only lift 260kg in 3/6 attempts.

In the view of some stakeholders, poor technical training, occasioned by bias selection of coaches by some people in the weightlifting federation was responsible for Usman’s decline.

To them, if Marim Usman had repeated the 280kg she lifted at Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, she would have placed 6th position instead of the 17th she got at the world Championship in USA.

At the moment, Team Nigeria stands the risk of not featuring in weightlifting event at Rio 2016 Olympics, unless the sports minister, Solomon Dulang, moves fast to ‘correct some abnormalities’ in the federation.

Speaking from Jos, Coach Bilkisu Musa said that though the situation looks dicey, the country could still salvage something, if all resources are channels towards the All African championship in Uganda next year.

“If we can gather some good points in the African championship, then, we may be able to pick two slots for Rio Olympics. I doubt if we can still make any headway in the male, but I feel if we can present seven girls for the African championship, we might be able to get two slots.

“We boxed ourselves in this bad situation by not attending championships in the past. Again, the situation with our weightlifting federation calls for concern. The board members feel they are there to make money only. Nobody thinks of organizing competition for weightlifters in the country anymore. Last year, I organized the only weightlifting competition in the country. It took place in my village, Okpekpe, in Edo State, and was attended by 21 states and the FCT, the Civil Defence, police and four clubs. I even gave some tokens to the participants.

“The competition cost me about N3.4m because I had to go to Benin City to borrow mattresses and also rent a hall. Most people would put up over bloated estimate of N15m to host a championship just because they want to ‘chop’ money. The way our people in Abuja select coaches for competition these days is worrisome. They only favour coaches who usually go to Abuja office to sing their praises and it is very wrong. I want the sports minister to look into this, particularly the selection of coaches,” Bilkisu Musa added.

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