By Onochie Anibeze
Yellowee Yaha could not get to the medal zone at the Beijing Olympics but he won one of the heats and looked forward to improving his performance at the London Olympics.
But the Ijaw swimmer who was actually given a wild card to the Olympics was withdrawn by the Nigeria Olympics Committee on the advice of the National Sports Commission.
Ifie Gagbe is described as the most promising female swimmer in the country and she looked forward to being an Olympia but she was hit by the poor vision of those who run sports in Nigeria. She was withdrawn too.
Amaju Pinick has described the treatment meted to these athletes as a “scandal that should concern well meaning Nigerians.”
Said Pinnick: “What they did to these two promising Ijaw swimmers is a scandal. They were duly accredited to compete in the Olympics but withdrawn by their own country. It’s a shame, a scandal that should concern everybody. Now, everybody is talking about Uche Chukwumereije in the combat sports. Before Beijing Olympics was he as popular as he is now?
But a Bronze medal at the Olympics upped his profile. Could he have won if he wasn’t given the chance on the grounds that Nigeria was not good in Takwoandon? The two swimmers were withdrawn because NSC felt that they would not win anything. You don’t do that to somebody who has qualified to compete on the biggest stage of sports. It speaks volumes of those who run our sports. The other time they rolled out a memo banning any athlete outside our shores from competing in our festival on the grounds that top athletes should not compete so that they can discover talents. They should now tell us the impact the last festival in Rivers has made in the London Olympics. It has made no contribution to our team. Nothing, absolutely nothing. And it has been so for years and they don’t have the vision to change it, make it our own Olympics where the best will compete and take it from there. We have potential in swimming more than we have in Takwoando but it is
because of the way they have been treating swimming that has put it in the condition it is now. And what did they do for Takwoando before now? It was the individual effort of the Chukwumereijes that brought us the feat that they are now celebrating and behaving as if they made Uche Chukwumereije. I hope that these Olympics will teach us some lessons about how to run sports. But can we ever learn?.”
The Delta State Sports Council boss wondered why the ministry and the National Sports Commission brought so many people who have no business being at the Olympics to London but were denying athletes that qualified for the Games a lifetime opportunity of participating in the Olympics.
“I cannot fathom what is going on here. We were told that the Presidency issued a directive that there was not going to be any official delegation to the London Games but what I am witnessing here is nothing short of a jamboree. Most people brought to London shouldn’t be here. This is not right,” Amaju intoned.
The Special Assistant to the Minister of Sports on media affairs, Julius Ogunro however, told this reporter that the withdrawn athletes were given wild cards to their respective events and in line with the ministry’s policy of streamlining the Nigerian contingent to the Olympics, it was decided that such athletes be dropped.
“This was settled over two months ago,” he said, adding, “ the athletes were contacted and are aware of the ministry’s stand. They were assured of the many opportunities open to them in future.”
The argument still does not hold water as many people who were not accredited for the Games are in London. They can’t even go to the Games Village or event venues. Indeed, they have no business being here.