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A new kid in town steals show in swimming tourney

By Jacob Ajom
Friday April 16 2010 was day two of the second Chief of Naval Staff open swimming championship at the Murtala Mohammed Square, Kaduna.

About midway into the day’s activities a sudden burst of strong wind descended on Kaduna and the Murtala Mohammed Square, like most other parts of the city was enveloped in a cloud of dust.

The wind was so strong that people ran to pillars to forestal being lifted off their feet by the torrent. Shopkeepers hurried to lock up their shops to safeguard their wares from being blown away. Despite the stout resolve of organisers of the championship to continue with events, they were forced to stop when the wind became hostile and the canopies that housed the Navy band and some technical officials started giving way. Members of the band scampered to safety as the wind was increasingly getting violent.

Kalu Madubuachi of The Sun Newspapers lost his bottled water and jotter-which he recovered later- to the wind. Resultantly, events were put on hold until the wind subsided.

When the situation returned to normal, the strong wind left in  its wake, shattered roofs and. littered streets.
“Swimmers for the mens 200 metres breast stroke event should file out and take positions according to their lanes,” the announcer said through the public address system.

When the swimmers took their positions all eyes shifted to lane one where one eight-year old climbed the starting platform. One thought he was one of the boys helping the elite swimmers with their wears. How wrong! The young lad was ready for competition among the nation’s best and one could see the determination in his eyes. Sadiq Yahaya, a pupil of Salamatu Memorial College, Kawo, in Kaduna was ready to prove that the young shall grow. He raised his tiny hands up, waving them in acknowledgement of the cheering spectators.

When the referee signalled for the commencement of competition, the young lad whose father is the Kaduna state swimming coach dived and started a race everybody knew would not result in any upset. As the adult swimmers were gilding through the pool to the finishing line, little Sadiq kept on swimming. By the time he completed the four laps everybody saw the potential in the young lad.  Friday Okologo representing Delta state won the event in a time of 2:40:28 secs. Expectedly, little Sadiq came last. Climbing out of the pool, he raised his two hands again, waving them to the spectators.

The jam-packed swimming arena that included the Kaduna state commissioner for youth and sports, Dr Shehu Adamu erupted as they cheered endlessly for the wonder kid. Although Okologo won the medal, Sadiq won the admiration of all. He won their hearts and signified hope for the future. His bravery, his determination and sense of purpose was uncommon.

“I feel great,” the lad said, innocently after the race, adding that he trained every day under the eagle eye of his father, Yahaya Usman.

“He is young and needs a lot of encouragement. He has a bright future if he continues this way,” President of the Nigeria Swimming Federation, Babatunde Fatai-Williams commented after the race which lighted up the arena. “The young boy only added colour to the event and that is the  whole idea – catching them young. If his friends see him now they could be attracted to swimming too. We need more of these kids so as to impart the basic tenets of the sport and develop that competitive spirit in them by exposing them to top class competitions.”

In a chat with Sports Vanguard in Kaduna, Sadiq’s  father and coach, Yahaya Usman foresaw a bright future for the boy whom he said he started training for about three years now. “Competing with those you know are bigger than you builds confidence in the swimmer and prepare him for bigger challenges,” Coach Yahaya said. adding, “very soon I know he will become a champion.”

According to Usman, Sadiq won 2 gold and 5 silver medals at the last National age grade swimming championship in Lagos last year. Sadiq is only living the script of his mentor, “I hate the idea of poaching. I would love a situation where swimmers of Kaduna state origin represent the state. I would not be comfortable seeing a Tunde or Chukwu represent Kaduna. I want to see the Mohammeds, Sadiqs, Usmans representing us. I want to prove that even in the desert, if you have a stream you can swim,” a proud Usman told Vanguard.


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