BY JOHN EGBOKHAN
Executive Chairman of the Delta State Sports Commission, Pinnick Amaju has said that Nigerians should celebrate Delta State Governor Dr. Emmanuel Udughan for the gold medals won by Blessing Okagbare and Ese Brume at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, which ended last night in Glasgow.
This comes as Sports Vanguard has learnt that the Nigerian track queen almost quit running for Nigeria after finishing last in the women’s 100m final at the London Olympics Games in 2012.
Speaking against the background of Okagbare double gold medals in the women’s 100m and 200m and Brume’s long jump gold in Glasgow, Amaju said that Gov. Uduaghan was the one who laid the foundation and platform for Nigerian athletes to soar to golden heights at the Games.
Recalling how Okagbare came back broken-hearted and dejected after she finished last in the 100m final of the London Olympic Games in 2012, Amaju told Sports Vanguard at the weekend that it was only Gov. Uduaghan, who comforted the Beijing Olympics long jump bronze medalist, with soothing words and gave her the necessary support to bounce back in a big way last year at the World Championships in Moscow and this year at the Commonwealth Games in Scotland.
“I recall vividly that Okagbare came back to Nigeria after the London Olympics Games unheralded. She was abused by some and nobody welcomed her. But Governor Uduaghan called me in the middle of the night and told me to bring Okagbare to him, which I did the next morning.
“On seeing her, the Governor told her to forget about what happened in London and that finishing eight did not mean that she was last but that she was the eight best sprinter in the world. The Governor told her to think of the future, which he emphasized held so much promise for her.
He told her to use the London performance to make a resurgence in the future. It was not only words of mouth. He backed her training financially and even provided some logistics. All these inspired Okagbare, who before then was thinking of quitting athletics because of the barrage of criticisms from Nigerians over her performance in London. Sadly, the sports ministry also abandoned her. But all that changed with Uduaghan’s action.
“Okagbare’s spirit was lifted after the meeting with the Governor. She drove my car to her house and the next day, the Governor bought her a brand new SUV so that she could move around in comfort and style. On receiving the key to the SUV, Okagbare said ‘what can I do without this man’ and that was when she swore to win everything in the future.
“As a way of motivating her, the Governor directed that a monthly training grant of $10, 000 be given to Okagbare while the other Delta State athletes like Ese Brume and Oghene Egwero were also paid monthly training grants.
“The monthly training grant was a priority payment in Delta and we have even paid her up till December 2014. All the other athletes also have their own special grants.
Even after approving these training grants, the Governor also mandated me to go and visit these athletes in their respective bases to know how they were faring, which I did because in Delta State, we are like a family and that is why the Governor was leaping and cheering after Okagbare won the 100m gold medal in Glasgow.”, added Amaju, who thanked President Goodluck Jonathan for organizing the National Sports Retreat, shortly after the London Olympic Games.
“That retreat has redefined the way funding is done in Nigerian sports and we at the Delta State Sports Commission are always in the forefront of ensuring that our athletes get the best in terms of funding and that was why they did well in Glasgow”, said Amaju.