Athletics coach,chief Tony Osheku has tasked the Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN) and the National Sports Commission (NSC) to build on the huge popularity the annual Obudu international mountain race now enjoys to kickstart a culture of distance and mountain running in Nigeria.
Osheku,unarguably Nigeria’s most successful coach in the last two decades is impressed with the technical organisation of the event and believes what is needed is for the AFN to encourage athletes who have decided to take up distance running via adequate training and exposure to international competitions.
’I’m happy that we now have an opportunity to develop distance running culture in Nigeria through the Obudu international mountain race.The MTN and Glo Half Marathons helped this cause a little but with its irregular occurrence,it was difficult to develop the culture.
We should thank the governor of Cross River state (Senator Liyel Imoke) for his continued sponsorship of the event.I am sure the Governor may not even know the magnitude of what he has done.The athletes who have been having the opportunity to run since 2005 when the inauguaral edition was held will continue to thank him’’,said Osheku who coached.
Falilat Ogunkoya to two Olympic medals in 1996 and the number one ranking in the women’s 400m in 1998.
Osheku believes the country has what it takes to be as successful as the East Africans in distance races and wants all on hands on deck towards making this a reality.
‘What the Obudu mountain race has done is to remind us,Nigerians that we have the talents to compete and the environment to train and become forces to reckon with in the world.It has re-awakened the interest of the athletes who have seized on the opportunity to close the gap between them and the East Africans.What we need to do now is to develop the environment to train these athletes.
It is a well known fact that the East Africans have taken advantage of the high altitude in that part of Africa to train these runners.We also have the same kind of environment in some states in the north…even the Obudu Ranch Resort which hosts the annual mountain race has high altitude.
What we have to do now is to set up training camps in these areas to train our athletes’,said the coach who last year guided Mohammed Kwajafar to Libya’s first medal (a 400m gold) and a first sub-45 seconds performance at the African Athletics Championships in Nairobi Kenya.