Athletics Federation of Nigeria, AFN, President Tonobock Okowa says the future is very bright for track and field in Nigeria following the unprecedented feats achieved by the country’s young athletes at the World Athletics U20 Championships which ended Sunday in Nairobi, Kenya.
Nigeria won four gold and three bronze medals to finish third on the medal table and Okowa has congratulated the team.
‘The athletes and their coaches have done us very proud. They have achieved our best-ever performance in the history of the Championships,’ said Okowa.
The AFN President believes the unprecedented feats signify that track and field in Nigeria is on the rise again after some 13 years of more misses than hits.
” This is a new beginning for athletics in Nigeria. We are confident this new set of athletes will be there in Paris, France in three years time to help us also achieve our best performance at the Olympics,’ he said.
Okowa insists our inability to win a single medal at both the London (2012) and Rio De Janeiro (2016) Olympics was because we neglected our youths. ‘Our chances of winning medals at the Olympics reduced because we failed to develop the youths who would have grown to make podium appearances like their predecessors did especially in the 1990s and early 2000s,’ he added and revealed all the individual medals Nigeria won at the Olympics came from athletes who started at the U20 level. ‘
From Falilat Ogunkoya, Mary Onyali to Chioma Ajunwa, Blessing Okagbare, Glory Alozie and Ese Brume, they all rose to become Olympic medallists after making their marks at the World U20 Championships. The challenge before us at the AFN is to turn some of the athletes here to potential Olympic medallists by the time we get to Paris, France in 2024.’
Okowa believes with the encouraging support the AFN has been getting from the Youth and Sports Development Minister Sunday Dare, the federation is confident of not only nurturing the athletes that have shown the potential to be world-class stars at the Nairobi 2021 event but also discover more. ‘
The board will meet soon and our programmes for the next four years will be released. Like I said when I was sworn in as the President of the AFN in June, the welfare of the athletes and coaches will be top of my list of priorities and I am happy I have started implementing it.
The athletes who did us proud were camped at a good facility before the Championships and we went to Kenya with the largest contingent of athletes since we started participating in the biennial event in 1986. We will make sure the athletes, in addition to their welfare, get enough competitions to make them better,’ promised Okowa