Nigeria’s first Olympic gold medalist flays stakeholders for poor development programme
The Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), coaches and retired athletes should be held responsible for dearth of prodigious talents in the nation’s pool of young track and field athletes, a former Olympic gold medalist Chioma Ajunwa has said. Ajunwa, who lamented the deplorable state of grassroots athletics in Nigeria, accused the stakeholders and administrators of ignoring inter-house sports competitions in schools, which used to be a spring board for athletes in her generation.
The police officer was speaking at the maiden edition of the Chioma Ajunwa Secondary Schools Athletics Championship held at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, Lagos.
She said: “My greatest fear is the future of the Nigeria Athletics. You may ask why I’m worried. It’s because we-the stakeholders-AFN, Coaches and retired athletes are not doing much yearly by combing the nooks and crannies of the various parts of the country to search and groom talents.
“This is far from what was prevalent during our times when we came across AFN coaches at inter-house sports competitions’, they were the ones who encourage us to pick Athletics over other sports. Let me state that I was a good football player but my inquisitiveness to see what athletics offers made me switch. The rest is the successful career later on.”
Speaking on the need to establish her athletics school, Ajunwa said: “My foundation decided to float and organize this championship having seen the disparity in the level of talent hunt especially football taking the first place. You see we believe that everybody can run and thus athletic should be the first sport of choice amongst our youngsters.
“Football goes beyond running around, and over 1000 youngsters will be in attendance for the three-Day event where the best of them will be given sporting scholarship. Full accommodation and feeding will be provided throughout the championship.
Ajunwa is still Nigeria’s only individual gold medalist at the Olympics.