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Encomiums as swimming coach, Onyeacholam retires

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Wednesday (August 24, 2011) night would remain green in the life of Stephen Onyeacholam, a swimming coach who has seen a lot in sports.

Steve rose from his position as a coach to the post of a Director of Sports in Delta State. But while many were still expecting more from this icon in Nigerian sports, civil service retirement age caught up with him. So, at the Garden City Games in Port Harcourt, Steve    retired. On Wednesday night Delta Sports Commission headed by Amaju Melvin Pinnick decided to honour him along with the athletes who participated at the Garden City Games.

It was an Award Night in Delta. A Shield was presented to Steve. But before then he stood on the stage for Willy Sowho to read a citation he had written on this great man of Nigerian sports. The audience listened and cheered. It was so emotional. His rich profile had moved everybody including the governor of the state, Emmanuel Uduaghan who promptly decided to engage the retired but not tired sports man.

He, on the floor, appointed Steve a sports consultant to Delta so that he can continue his good work. The governor received ovation for that. He had hugged Steve and told him to continue where he stopped. Below is the citation that moved all and apparently sparked the emotion that compelled good judgment from the governor:

When I look into the crowd this evening I see a beautiful tapestry of Nigeria’s finest in all spheres of life especially in the Nigerian sporting firmament boldly represented by so many iconic sporting legends that have bestrode the world sporting stage over the years like inimitable colossus.

It is often said that a man’s true age is measured by his stewardship to humanity. Our man of the moment, Mr. Stephen Augustus Onyeacholam was born on July 6, 1951 and grew up at Isale –Eko, the heartland of Lagos State. Though of Delta State origin, his primary and secondary school education started from Saint George’s Primary school, Falomo in 1958 and continued at the Lagos Clerical Training College, Surulere, and Lagos with an RSA Secondary School Commercial Certificate in 1970.

Over the years, Steve as he is popularly called traversed the world garnering very intimidating professional sporting certificates. In 1975, he clinched with distinction the prestigious Coaching Diploma in Competitive Swimming from the German College of Physical Education and Culture; the certificate of honour from the IOC/USOC American Coaches College, Colorado Springs, USA in 1985; another certificate in Elite Swimming Coaching from the Australian Institute of Sports in Canberra in 1994 and yet another sparkling honour also from Canberra in 1997.

Steve is a shining example of a sporting coach who has not only impacted positive values on a lot of Nigeria’s sporting stars, but a man who has lived all his life with the motto: No sweat, No sweet; No pain, No gain; No cross, No crown.

Like a prince he came into the Nigerian sporting firmament and like a King he touched the lives of sportsmen and women globally. Steve always had the courage to say no and the courage to face the truth. He did the right thing always because it is right. These are the magic keys with which Steve lived his life of unblemished reputation and integrity.

He was always held in fraternal awe by teammates, courted by juniors and reciprocally respected by his seniors.

As if going by the popular saying that you should always shoot for the moon, even if you miss it, you will land among the stars, Steve set National records in the 50m and 100m freestyle and butterfly from 1967-1973. He also won the silver medal in the 400m Medley Relay at the 1973 All- Africa Games in Lagos; Bronze medal in the 800m and 400m freestyle Relay also at the 1973 All-Africa Games.

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