BY ONOCHIE ANIBEZE
Track and Field buff, Brown Ebewele is not happy that Nigeria would be participating at the World Athletics Championships in Moscow, Russia with just one athlete in mind.
Blessing Okagbare is ranked number four in the world and she wields the potential to win a medal in Moscow. She competes in 100m, 200m and the Long Jump. She has variously won these events in the different Diamond Leagues this season, capping it all with 10.79 seconds race in London that broke a 14 year old Africa’s record. She carries the weight of over 160 million Nigerians and Brown is not comfortable with that.
‘’I fear that Blessing may be under pressure but I pray she remains strong,” Ebewele said yesterday while trying to assess the Nigerian team.
“We went to the London Olympics and banked all our hopes on one person. The same thing is happening today. We have a situation where the President of the Athletics Federation in the person of Chief Solomon Ogba is spending so much of his personal money to lift the sport. It does not augur well for Nigeria because he who pays the piper dictates the tune.
If the federal government was helping out the National Sports Commission would have enough money to plan well. But with the envelopes that they are given as their allocations the problem in sports development will continue. “
Delta State governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan has been the pillar behind Blessing. He pays her and some elite athletes training grants. After the London Olympic Games, Blessing considered changing her nationality to run for any other country.
When she placed last in the final of the 100m race at the Olympics, the curtain seemed to have been drawn on her. But Uduaghan encouraged and motivated her to return to her beat. Ogba and Amaju Pinnick have been supportive too.
“It is certainly not good that Nigeria will go for such events as the World Championships and everybody is looking on one athlete to provide succour to all,” Ebewele, continued, adding “people say that potentials abound here but you cannot transform them the way we are funding sports. “Again, coaching has been a problem but what are we doing about it?
We have people who can turn things around if given the chance but what do you say of a system that has no structure for coaching and a programme that will see them work to produce stars? Track and Field would have died by now but for Ogba. But even at that there are things we can do to get it right.”
Technical Director of AFN, Commodore Omatseye Nesiama said at the weekend that Nigeria could spring a surprise in the women’s 4x400m relay.