Governor Em-manuel Uduaghan of Delta State yesterday honoured Delta-born Africa’s fastest woman, Blessing Okagbare with a charge on politicians not to distract the athlete as she prepares for the 2016 Olympics.
Speaking during a state reception in Asaba, Governor Uduaghan said those who desire to appreciate Okagbare should do so quietly without politicizing her in order to insulate her for the set goal of gold medals in the 2016 Olympics.
“All support for Blessing should be done privately and quietly, we should insulate her from politics, she is a role model, she is not a political model,” Governor Uduaghan said, adding that Okagbare is “a pride to Nigeria and a pride to us in DeltaState.”
According to him, “her feat has shown that youths in the state have enormous potentials for greatness which if harnessed positively will bring great successes and positive changes to the state and the nation.”
Dr. Uduaghan said that his administration was determined to produce gold winning athletes for the country at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil and announced a yearly training grant of 120,000 dollars for three years to Miss Okagbare to support her preparation for the Olympics and also to reduce the distractions that may be caused by the number of competitions she would partake in before the Olympics Games in 2016.
He also charged the State Sports Commission to identify four young potential athletes capable of winning medals that would be nurtured and groomed to represent the state and country in the 2016 Olympics Games in Brazil, promising to give them training grants for their preparations and exposure to international training facilities.
Dr. Uduaghan announced a cash gift of N2.5 million to Okagbare, N2 million each to Mr. Daniel Etsebiminor, the local coach that discovered her and Mr. Gabriel Okon, her Athletic Federation of Nigeria coach as well as 20,000 dollars to Mr. John Smith, her international coach.
In addition, the Governor appointed Miss Okagbare the Youth Ambassador for the state, gave her a parcel of land in Asaba and announced the naming of a stadium in the state after her.
The governor thanked President Goodluck Jonathan for the honour done to Blessing Okagbare and commended the team that have managed her thus far especially the local coach, Mr. Danie Etsebiminor who discovered her.
He also commended other young athletes from the state that have won laurels in different competitions especially
the last African Junior Athletics Competitions in Malawi promising to honour them at a different date.
He assured that his administration was not only interested in discovering athletes but that such athletes get the necessary support to win laurels.
In his remarks, the President of the AFN, Evangelist Solomon Ogba thanked the DeltaState government for encouraging field and track events development in the country, stating that Delta is champion in sporting activities in the country.
While noting that Governor Uduaghan’s passion for sports could be traced to his being an athlete, Evangelist Ogba stated that Okagbare placed Nigeria in the 19th position in world ranking.
Responding, Blessing Okagbare thanked Governor Uduaghan for playing important roles in her success story stating: “my career has grown from good to better but, my best is yet to come.”
She appealed to the Federal and State governments to support athletes by developing sports through funding and proper management, explaining that “proper and adequate funding especially training grants to athletes will make them prepare properly for competitions and improve their performance.”
She said that money spent on sports especially to support the training and preparation of athletes in track and field would determine the amount of laurels the country can win in competitions.