By Jacob Ajom, with agency reports
Nigeria is about to lose yet another promising star whose future in athletics is already here. At 19, Ituah Enahoro has achieved the dream of numerous Decathletes across the world.
Last Sunday Ituah Thomas Chuks Enahoro joined the exclusive league of decathletes who have surpassed the 8000 point barrier after setting a Personal Best (PB) of 8028 whilst competing at the Thorpe Cup in Düsseldorf, Germany.
However, the 19-year old achieved this brilliant feat whilst donning German colours, and was the stand-out performer at the event which he already began to dominate from the first day.
The Thorpe Cup is Germany’s traditional match against the USA, and the host team garnered a total of 38642 points to beat the American team which scored a total of 37321 points.
Enahoro set the following marks at the meet in Düsseldorf: 10.84s (100m), 7.64m (Long Jump), 14.44m (Shot put), 1.90m (High Jump), 48.02s (400m), 46.65m (Discus), 4.45m (Pole vault), 51.57m (Javelin), 4:27.94 (1500m) and 14.86s (110 Hurdles).
His new mark supersedes the Nigerian Decathlon record of 7252 points set by Peter Moreno two months ago in Bedford. It is also the third best performance by an U20 athlete in the world this year as only Germany’s Niklas Kaul (8435 points) and Johannes Erm (8141 points) of Estonia have done better.
The excited teenager said: “I’m speechless! Worked so hard and it paid off. Thank you so much my Coach Dirk Zorn and the rest of the people who supported me.”
Ituah Enahoro who possesses dual citizenship, won a Silver medal in the Pole vault for Nigeria at the 2015 African Junior Championships. He subsequently began to compete for Germany after not being invited by the Athletics Federation of Nigeria for further competitions.
His father, Michael Enahoro, a certified Engineer and Chairman of the Federal Capital Territory Athletics Association said Ituah was born in Belgium in December 1997. His mother is German.
Enahoro said his son started competing as an athlete about 5 years ago, after his coach discovered that he would be better as an athlete rather than being a footballer.
“I took him out for training in football and he was too tall and got tired too soon. His best part in football was when they were warming up in training. His coach called me and said this boy is not ready to do this. It is better he does something else.
“He started an after school programme and there, he began to excel. Surprisingly enough he was driven by one fact: My mother, Jennet Mgbeke ran for Nigeria in the late 50s and the early 1960s. So he wanted to emulate his grandmother; he saw her pictures and that inspired him. Grandma’s death in 2012 gave him more motivation to continue to run. Definitely, he is driven by that and he talks about it quite regularly.
“Ituah competed for Nigeria at the 2015 African Junior Athletics championship in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. That is why it is very painful because in that championship in 2015, he won a Silver medal for Nigeria. He was beaten by a Tunisian by just 2 metres. His first choice in terms of nationality was to represent Nigeria, Interestingly, in the IAAF website, Ituah is still registered as a Nigerian athlete.”
After the 2015 Championship which he won a silver for Nigeria, he was never invited again. Even when he qualified for last year’s junior championship, Ituah was never invited.
Enahoro said, “I practically pestered them to the extent that they started asking, na only you de? Is it because you have access to us (the leadership of AFN)? They never believed a Nigerian could win a medal in Decathlon internationally. It was very painful for the child. I tried to do the much I could to get the attention of those that were in power but they did not care a hoot because they had made up their minds they did not want to do Decathlon.
“After that, nobody contacted him even to the African juniors, or invitational championships. He told me there were various competitions out there that he would like to take part in and Germany took him and awarded him a scholarship. Right now Ituah studies Physiotherapy in Germany under contract with the German Athletics Federation. He is under a state programme for elite athletes. The German government and the German Athletics Federation opened various centres for their elite athletes ahead of the 2020 Olympics.
Enahoro senior said it shouldn’t be surprising, if one finds Ituah, a Nigerian competing against Nigeria at the Tokyo Olympics. “Most certainly, except something is done about it”.
As an athlete under a contract with the German Athletics Federation, we asked whether it could still be possible for Nigeria to get back what rightly belongs to her?
His response: “Of course anything is possible in life. All things being equal, the boy will be graduating in 2019. After that, anything can happen It would depend on our government, the Athletic Federation of Nigeria and all the relevant bodies. Like I said when he was injured nobody talked to him, nobody called him and nobody remembered him, yet he got a lot of support from the German federation to get his surgery done.
“It’s very painful as a young man when you get injured and the country you represented and competed for ignored you as if you did not exist. Nigeria had everything going, as far as Ituah’s nationality was concerned.
But after series of snub and after realising that the people who run sports in the country do not care whether you live or die, he made up his mind. In Europe when you are 18 you are considered as an adult. He made up his mind. He said to himself I am here in Germany, they have given me school, scholarship, accommodation, and all I need to excel, as the training is top notch; why not I represent them. He has three trainers working with him.
“As the father, there is really no argument I can advance on behalf of Nigeria, especially when I go to the federation and nobody is willing to answer me. When this issue of nationality came up, I had no argument”.
With a new board inaugurated about two weeks ago, there might be a glimmer of hope, if the new men would look in the direction of the multi-talented Ituah. Does Enahoro still have the motivation to talk to them concerning his son, Ituah?
He said, “actually, it’s gone beyond that. I am also the chairman of the FCT Athletics Association. I also have a programme here in Abuja called “kick and play” with over 1000 children across the FCT that are engaged in athletics. The fastest U-17, the only girl that qualified for the World Youth Championship trained in my athletics club – Kick and Play.
“One of the things I wanted to do was to identify and train young people. Talking to the federation yes, I am ready to work with them to find a lasting solution towards the development of youths from the grassroots and stopping this trend of us not getting ready for international athletics events on time. This year we missed the African Junior Championships, the World Youth Championships, we missed the Commonwealth Youth Championship.
Nigeria is still at the developmental stage of athletics and we have missed a lot. And with Ituah again, we are at the verge of losing this talent to Germany. Where is the argument when someone is sending you to school, giving you accommodation and giving you training and all the support?”