The Olympics has come and gone and any athlete dreaming of Gold would have to wait 4-years for Tokyo. Before I censure Team Nigeria for their once again deplorable performance, I’d like to quickly revel over the performance of the fastest man on earth.
The 100 metre final was the height for me at Rio 2016. The slow but usual fashion Usain Bolt began the race and finished with lightning speed was indeed a spectacle to behold. In three consecutive Olympics, "Lightning Bolt", the most successful sprinter in history, won the Gold medal. He won the 100, 200 and 4 × 100 metre relay in the 2008, 2012, 2016 Olympics, the éclat of a great achievement. Sadly though, he has indicated that he would be retiring from the sprints in 2018, we might not get to see his blistering pace once again in Tokyo.
Coming back to Team Nigeria, it is indeed appalling for a country of over 170 million people to go and come back virtually empty-handed from the Olympics. The last time we performed commendably at an Olympics was 20-years ago when we won 2 gold medals (Long Jump and football), 1 silver (4 X 400m relay) and 3 bronze medals (200m, 400m and Boxing).
Ever since, our performance at subsequent Olympics has been far from commendable, except perhaps during the Beijing games in 2008 where we won 2 silver medals (football and 4 x 100 m relay) and 2 bronze medals (long jump and Taekwondo). With 306 sets of medals up for grabs, featuring 28 Olympic sporting events at Rio, for us to have won just a single bronze medal, is nothing to write home about. In fact, the last time we won a medal before this consolatory bronze was 8 years ago at the Beijing games.
Going down memory lane, we have participated in the Olympic Games since 1952 and has sent athletes to compete in every Summer Olympic Games since then, except for the boycotted 1976 Olympics. Thus far, our athletes have won a total of 24 medals, mostly in athletics and boxing. In athletics, we have won a total of 13 medals (2 gold, 4 silver and 7 bronze); in boxing, a total of 6 medals (3 silver and 3 bronze); in football, a total of 3 medals (1 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze); in weightlifting, a total of 2 medals (1 silver and 1 bronze); while in Taekwondo, just a bronze medal. For a country as large as Nigeria who frequently prides herself as the giant of Africa, with our local parlance of “we no dey carry last” our 24-medal count in the space of 64 years is simply disappointing.
In Africa, when the likes of South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia are going to the Olympics, they are sure to bring home medals, making their countries and continent proud. Over the years, they have cemented their spots on the medal table in every Olympics. However, in our case, it is until when it’s probably a month to the games (that’s me being fair), you see our Olympic committee scurrying about and looking for athletes that will represent the country. Trivial things also come into play like lack of kits and equipment for our athletes and especially, funds. Psychologically, this demoralizes the athletes and can make them under-perform at the games. I don’t care what anyone says; just a bronze medal after 8 years of winning a medal is not just good enough.
As other serious minded countries are returning from Rio, they are already preparing for Tokyo 2020. However, over here, our officials have already gone to sleep after junketing to Rio and trading blame games upon arrival. Nonetheless, there’s no point crying over spilt milk. Preparations for the next Olympics need to begin now. Curiously, there haven’t been any “catch-them-young” programmes aiming to spot and harness young talents in the country. In countries such as China, the US and Russia, athletes who will represent them start at a very young age. They have schools that train them on different types of sporting event. This should be replicated over here. Perhaps, the government and private sponsors should begin looking at establishing “game schools” in probably all the geo-political zones in the country, were children can attain formal education as well as were their talents can be blossomed and made to represent the country in various sporting events.
In such schools, we should concentrate on our sporting strengths such as Athletics (especially the sprints), Table-Tennis, Boxing and Weightlifting. We should also begin harnessing talents in other sports such as Swimming, Gymnastics, Taekwondo, Archery etc. There are over 28-sporting events in an Olympic, why can’t we concentrate on about ten or more and perform admirably in the events. We could also pick events peculiar to a particular region. With swimming, the South-south region which is predominantly a riverine area, natural swimmers are bountiful. In the Northeastern parts, the terrain is suitable for training in long distances. Setting up a game school there that concentrates on long distances, would enable us produce athletes that would do us proud in that event like the Kenyans and Ethiopians. Four years is ample time to begin preparing our athletes for the next games, but we need to start now. Similarly, if we begin catching-them-young now, we can do admirably well in the Olympics 8 and 12-years from now.
Before I put a stop here, I would like to share a joke a friend made recently. While I was complaining of our dismal performance at the Olympics, my friend simply said to me; “don’t be downcast, after all we have 1-gold and 1-silver.” When I asked him what he meant, he said “we have Adekunle Gold and Joke Silver…”
Written by Abdulsalam Jubril
You can follow me on Twitter via @Abdul_Jubril
Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.