Warri (Delta) – Nigerian Officials have expressed joy over the country’s victory at the just concluded Africa Youths Athletics Championship (AYAC).
Some of them said that the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) competed at the championship fairly and without age cheat or the spirit of do-or-die.
Navy Commodore Omatseye Nesiama, the Technical Director of AFN expressed happiness with Nigeria’s performance at the championship and would improve in necessary events.
“We came into this championship with the notion that we would not win at all cost, especially through unfair means.
“I am proud of these athletes and they are part of our 2016 Project Rio programme of getting to the podium in international events.
“They have really done us all proud,’’ he said.
Tunde Suleiman, a long jump coach, said he was thrilled by Nigeria’s performance, adding that Egypt thought they would win but Nigeria gave them a surprise.
“The first three days, Egypt and Kenya were the ones leading; but we knew that we would win because most of our strength was reserved for the last day.
“I am overwhelmed by these athletes excellent performance; it shows that there is truly hope for improvement in athletics and hope for medals at the 2016 Olympics,’’ Suleiman said.
Tina Iheagwam, a former athlete, also commended the athletes for their excellent performance, saying grassroots development was essential to the development of sports.
Nigeria clinched first position with 13 gold, 10 silver and 12 bronze medals; Egypt was second with eight gold, six silver and two bronze medals while Ethiopia came third with six gold, 13 silver and six bronze.
Kenya came fourth with five gold, four silver and two bronze medals; Gambia was fifth with two gold medals; Eritrea came sixth with 1 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze while Morocco had one gold and 3 bronze medals, retaining seventh position.
Uganda took eighth position with one silver; Burkina Faso was next in ninth position with one silver medal while Nambia came 10th with 2 bronze medals.
Athletes from other countries who participated in the championship rated the competition high.
Some of them told NAN at the end of the four-day event that the organisation of the competition was the best and world class facilities were used.
Wilhelm Rademeyer, Namibia’s shot-put thrower, rated the country excellent in the area of organisation, facilities and friendliness.
“The competition was the best, I could not have asked for anything more because the organisers tried. If I was told to come back here I will come,’’ he said.
He, however, decried the harsh weather in the country, saying apart from this, his stay in Nigeria was good.
Orihan Handyk, heptathlon athlete, who won gold for Egypt, said he would be pleased to visit Nigeria again if the opportunity presented itself.
“Nigerians are friendly but everywhere you go, because we are not black, people stare at us; I will like to visit again,’’ he said.
Yvonne Vanhuvanoe of Zimbabwe, a 400 metre athlete, who also rated the competition high, said “the competition was of high standard and I respect Nigeria’s athletes who participated in it’’.
The AYAC held between March 27 and March 31 at the Warri Township Stadium in Delta. (NAN)