Pessimism trail Team Nigeria

News

Friday that three London bound athletes had
failed drugs tests. Keen observers say the
crisis is just a prelude to a poor outing by
Team Nigeria in London, reports ‘TANA
AIYEJINA
With just 12 days to the London 2012
Olympic Games, some Nigerian sports
administrators have made it clear that the
country should not expect much from Team
Nigeria at the games. According to the
administrators, preparations were Ad hoc for
an important event such as the Olympics.
Nigeria will take part in eight sports in
London namely athletics, canoeing, boxing,
basketball, wrestling, taekwondo, table tennis
and weightlifting.
Nigerians were still basking in the euphoria
of winning the recent African Championships
in Porto Novo, Benin Republic, when the
shocking news came on Friday that three of
the country’s athletes had failed drug tests
and have been withdrawn from Team Nigeria
for the Olympics.
Athletic Federation of Nigeria president,
Solomon Ogba, said the federation could not
release the affected athletes’ names until its
medical committee completed its findings.
But our correspondent learnt that two of the
affected athletes were listed in Nigeria’s
women’s 4x100m and 4x400m teams for the
Olympics. The third, also a female, is one of
the country’s best in the throws events.
Ogba said in a statement, “The tests were
carried out on our athletes and the three
dropped were found to have been guilty of
banned substances. Because we are desirous of
going to the London Olympics with 100 per
cent dope free athletes, we had no choice but
remove the trio from our team.
“As you are aware, the affected athletes are
entitled to a second test (‘B’ samples) before
we can say categorically that these are the
athletes found guilty. Once the Medical
Committee of our federation completes its
findings, a statement, detailing everything
the press and Nigerians want to know, will be
issued.”
But close observers say the latest crisis, which
has hit the athletics team coupled with the
country’s fire brigade approach to
competitions is sign of doomsday in London.
During interviews with stakeholders on
Nigeria’s preparations and chances in London,
they insisted that the country was on the
wrong path.
Brown Ebewele, a former Edo State
Commissioner for Sports, believes Nigeria is
going to London to complete the numbers.
“If you are expecting anything from the
Olympics, I am not. If we win any medal, it is
by luck and the effort of the athletes because
we did not plan for the games as usual,”
Ebewele, popularly known as Juju man, said.
“As far as I am concerned, if you remove
Blessing (Okagbare), who combines the long
jump and 100m, we are out. For me, she is
Team Nigeria. Is that a team? It becomes
delicate if she twists her ankle. She was even
defeated in Benin by an unknown Gabonese
girl. Americans and Jamaicans, who we are
going to compete against at the Olympics, were
not there. That’s the situation.
“There are some people doing eye service so
that the government can take them to London
but we know that they are going there for a
jamboree.
“Anybody that tells you that Nigeria is going
to do well in London is fraudulent. As far as
I am concerned, we didn’t work to deserve any
medal in London.
“If Solomon Ogba (Athletic Federation of
Nigeria president) had not taken it as a
responsibility, we won’t even have athletics in
this country today.”
Renowned boxing promoter, Martin Osaile,
popularly known as Don King, is also not
expecting anything from the country’s boxers
in London.
He said, “Nobody can bring anything back
from the Olympics. We took our boxers to
Cuba for training whereas by August, Jos
will have the same weather conditions as
London. Why take them to Cuba? Jos may be
unsafe but there are other places around we
could have camped them.
“In 1989, when Damishi Sango became sports
minister, he said he would bring gold back
from Athens but we got nothing. When
(Ismaila) Sambawa, the poultry farmer, also
came, he boasted that he would bring 10
medals but we couldn’t achieve it. So it was
with Col Musa Mohammed (rtd) and others.
“Nobody can bring anything. I always watch
them (officials) on TV boasting and I laugh.
They can boast now but when they come back
from the Olympics, they will be quiet.”
Osaile also holds same view with Ebewele,
saying some people are going to London just
to satisfy their personal interests.
“We have about N1b wasted. They didn’t tell
us how many National Assembly Sports
Committee members are going to London. They
are just jokers. People steal money and nobody
asks. Categorically, we are coming back from
London with nothing,” Osaile added.
Dodan Warriors Academy proprietor, Col Sam
Ahmedu (rtd), describes the country’s men’s
basketball team’s qualification for the
Olympics as ‘the 7th wonder of the world.’
Nigeria is drawn in a tight group that
comprises Lithuania, Tunisia, USA, France
and Argentina at the games.
Ahmedu says the team and Nigerians should
not be carried away by their performance in
Venezuela during the Olympic qualifiers,
adding that there are glaring lapses in the
team coached by Ayo Bakare.
“Their (D’Tigers) qualification was the 7th
wonder of the world. It will be foolhardy to
underrate any team in London. Our boys did
well and they have shown that they have
what it takes to play at the highest level,” he
said.
“If they up their ante, they can get to the
medal range but they will have themselves to
blame if they underrate other teams in their
group.
“However, I don’t agree that they had a
fantastic preparation for the Olympics. Yes,
the team had good games but there were some
lapses we saw; which showed that they were
not in camp for long.
“Good enough, they have more time to prepare
and correct their mistakes.”
On his assessment of the overall preparation
of Team Nigeria for the games, the retired
army officer says the country has not done
enough.
He said, “We’ve not been good in team sports
because of our last minute preparations. It was
sad to learn that a Gabonese girl defeated us
in 100m in Benin.
“You have four years to train for the
Olympics; it is not enough to give athletes
N1m at the last minute as training grants.
“We always wait till last minute. I am not
running anybody down but it’s time we started
paying attention to other sports like football.”
Well, Nigeria might still have something to
cheer about at the Olympics apart from
winning medals.
When the games kick off, Africa’s men
number one table tennis player, Segun Toriola,
will emerge as the first African athlete to
feature in six Olympic Games and the fourth
table tennis player in the world to achieve the
feat. He made his debut in Barcelona in 1992
and has not missed any games since then. His
best outing at the Olympics was in Beijing
four years ago when he reached the quarter-
finals, beating amongst others former world
number one Jean-Michel Saive as well as
David Zhuang.
In Beijing, Toriola made history as the first
Nigerian man to appear at five Olympics.
Taekwondo athlete, Chika Chukwumerije,
who won a bronze in Beijing, is seen as a
medal prospect. He has been in intensive
training which has spanned several months
ahead of the games.
Nigeria is not new to crisis-ridden
preparations ahead of events but the question
is, will the country come out lucky once more?
Well, the answer will surely start unfolding
12 days from now.

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