By John Joshua Akanji
After months of inactivity as a result of the impact of COVID-19 pandemic which brought the world prostrate on its knees, sporting activities are getting back on track with Minister of Youth and Sports Development Sunday Dare taking over the driver’s seat for the much postponed National Sports Festival and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Moved by the urgency of lost times and missed opportunities, Dare is in a hurry to rev up the country’s lost momentum and the quest for a podium performance at the biggest sporting event in the world.
Prior to the lockdown, Dare had initiated and commenced the “Adopt An Athlete” Initiative Program which had State Governments, Corporate bodies and individuals adopting some athletes by giving them financial support to commence early preparations for the Olympics. This not only seeks to address poor funding, but nip the delay often associated with the release of funds for major sporting events.
Prior to the lockdown, five athletes were fully adopted, 10 were on the last lap of adoption.
According to the Minister, his plan is to get at least 45 athletes adopted to commence early preparations for the Olympics and secure podium success without being bogged down by financial encumbrances’ which had always militated against early preparations.
The Minister had to put to good use his clout, integrity and personal relationships to convince States like Lagos, Delta, Edo, Ondo , his friends and some companies to key into the “Adopt An Athlete” idea which is already yielding fruition.
Top rated athletes and Nigeria’s best medal prospects like Blessing Okagbare, Ese Brume, Divine Oduduru, Egwero Ogho-Oghene, Ekevwo Raymond, Itsekiri Ushoritse are all doing well in their build-up to the Games, thanks to the heightened expectation that they may soon be adopted by their state governors.
Ruth Usoro who is a student athlete in the USA is equally doing extremely well, just as wrestler Odunayo Adekuroye who already got adopted for the Olympic Games.
Grace Nwokocha is burning the tracks and ready to give others a run for the medal by winning the 100m Women at the Evaluation meet in Akure where others also set personal best times of the year.
Despite initial hiccups, there is hope in the horizon for the Adoption of Tobi Amusan, Elizabeth Anyanacho and the fast rising Enoch Adegoke.
Just last week, some foreign based athletes hit great forms, thereby setting the tone of what to expect at the Olympics.
The fruits of the adoption campaign are already germinating; hopefully it would lead to bountiful harvest of medals.
The adoption of high performers is an attestation of the Minister’s vision and mission to up the ante at the fast approaching Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Driven by the passion and mission to support the athletes dream, the Minister visited the High performance Centre at the University of Port-Harcourt, Rivers State.
After inspecting the facilities at the Centre, he lamented the long years of neglect and poor funding. He promised to redress the anomalies through a supplementary budgetary presentation to the Federal Executive Council.
Home-grown athletes are to be the first beneficiaries with plans underway to camp them at the facility.
Under Dare’s directives, only sports with comparative advantage of excelling at the Olympics are participating at the Games. To fulfill this mandate, the Nigeria Basketball Federation had commenced early camping in the US for both the male and female teams, friendly matches have been lined up in Spain, Australia, USA to get the teams into proper shape.
=John Joshua-Akanji is Media Adviser to Minister of Youth and