Predicts more will follow
By Ben Efe
Salwa Ed Naser was unarguably the star of the recently concluded 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar. She stunned athletics enthusiasts around the world with a 48.14 seconds run, the third all time best performance.
She surprised, even herself and left race favourite Shaunae Miller-Uibo and the entire arena in amazement. And as she did her victory lap around the Khalifa International Stadium draped in the colours of Bahrain, Nigerians were left in awe, they wondered how an athlete with such immense talent could slip through the fingers of Nigerian sports officials to represent another nation.
While keen Nigerian athletics followers celebrated her feat, some others who did not understand the circumstances of her departure to Bahrain questioned her decision not only to dump Nigeria, but also to change her name contradicting her cultural and religious upbringing.
Ebele Agbapuluonwu .a.ka. Ed Naser left Nigeria aged 15. She never represented her fatherland at the international level, meaning Athletics Federation of Nigeria could do nothing when the young athlete decided to make her exit.
Ed Naser’s father, Ogunjiofor Agbapuluonwu is not bothered by such sentiments, praising the achievements of his daughter. He instead rapped Nigerian sports officials for their shabby treatment of aspiring and established athletes.
“I’m the most happiest man on earth following my daughter’s achievements,” Engineer Agbapuluown stated.
“I have noting to say to those who question her decision. They should rather blame the country’s sports officials for the circumstances that led to her teaming up with Bahrain.”
He told the story of how his daughter was almost frustrated out of the sport when she was running as a grassroots athlete. Her first ever national competition was the 2013 School Sports in Port Harcourt, she also ran in the National Youth Games in Ilorin.
“Do you know that she came back from Ilorin that year looking mentally and physically drained?
“How can a young athlete just coming into the sport be subjected to such frustrations?
“When she came back from Ilorin she told me how they were made to sleep inside a bus and then early in the morning around 4.00am they woke them up to take their bath in the open when it was still dark so that nobody will see their nakedness.
“Anambra State couldn’t afford to put the kids in a decent accommodation. Ebele and the others were supposed to be well fed and rested so they could wake up strong. They were made to sleep in a bus, just imagine that kind of a thing.
“ She came back from Ilorin feeling so sick and I had to take her to the hospital to treat her myself. Not even a show of concern from the sports officials for an athlete that won gold. She also went to Calabar to compete and also fell ill and I have to take her to several places for treatment and proper care.
“She was gradually recovering when the offer from Bahrain came. And I had no choice but to let her go. There was no way I could have stood in her way,” said Agbapuluonwu.
He warned Nigerian sports officials to wake up to the reality that they must take good care of their athletes otherwise many more talented athletes would take a walk.
“Nigeria sports officials must have to change their ways. There are many more Ebeles in this country and they would leave one by one if those in authority failed to do the needful.
“Everything the athletes need to excel should be provided. The facilities, their welfare and reward, if we have these things on ground why would any athlete want to go away to another country.”
Speaking on the origin of Ebele’s athletics prowess, Agbapuluonwu stated that he wasn’t surprised by his daughter’s abilities.
“I was a sprinter during my school days. So was Ebele’s mum. We met in 1985 at the Stadium during school sports, she was representing her school and I was also representing my school, so Ebele is a natural born athlete.”
Also Johnny Igboka who first coached the World 400m champion in her formative years, stated that Ed Naser has always been phenomenal from youth.
“I’m not surprised by her amazing run at the World Championships. Ebele is an athlete with an all conquering spirit.
“There was one particular race she ran while she was here. She was beaten to the second place by another athlete and she cried all evening and swore never to lose to that girl again.
“I think it was that same spirit that she approached the final in Doha. Millar-Uibo beat her twice during the Diamond League and I’m positive Ebele was well prepared to prevent that from happening again, hence the magic run.”