Sunday, 31 January 2016

The last time I checked on the official website of the
Rio 2016 Olympic Games holding in Rio de Janeiro,
what I first saw was the Omega time piece tickling
away, counting days to the most glamorous
sporting event in the world.
From that time piece, by today, January 31, 2016, it
will be exactly 187 days, some fraction of hours,
minutes and seconds to the Games which is
expected to run from 5-21, August, 2016.
The next information I saw and read was that about
10,500 athletes (excluding officials) from 206
countries( Nigeria inclusive of course) will compete
in the “First Olympic Games in South America.”
It further revealed that during the 17 days it would
last, there will be 306 medals to be competed for by
the athletes out of which 161 of them will be for
men, 136 for women and nine mixed, that is for both
sexes in double events.
All these medals will be in 42 events including two
others, golf which is returning to the Games after
112 years and rugby, making a comeback after 92
years.
Of all the information I got, one thing I know is that
my country, Nigeria will be among the 206
participating countries and her athletes will be
among the 10,500 mentioned while she will be
competing in only seven sports, athletics, wrestling,
football, boxing, taekwondo, basketball and
weightlifting, even though the authorities earlier said
eight sports would make it.
What I couldn’t find answers to are how many
athletes would fly our flag in Rio and how many of
those medals our athletes would be able to win.
Again because it is said that to win a medal at the
Olympics, an athlete should have started preparing
for it immediately after one ends, I cannot say how
prepared our athletes are. Our athletes should have
started preparing after the London 2012 Olympics,
which ironically was the worst in recent times for
our country as we came back empty handed but it
is sadly not so.
Nigeria’s Daniel Igali, who is president of the
Wrestling Federation is a very good example here.
When he was spotted by Canada which eventually
made him to switch nationality in 1994 at the
Commonwealth Games they hosted that year in
Victoria, they did not rush him into participating in
the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta but prepared him for
the Sydney Games in 2000.
How did they start? They first got him a sponsor
which provided money for his needs. He then
started training, then competing from time to time in
national and continental as well as world
championships. So he was ripe for a medal at the
2000 Olympics and he didn’t disappoint, winning for
Canada her first Olympic gold in wrestling.
There are many more Igalis here but have they
been identified and how really prepared to win
medals in Rio are they? If they have even been
identified, how motivated are they and how are their
trainings being funded? Our sports authorities may
well tell you that the athletes have been training on
their own but is that how it is supposed to be?
Igali never prepared on his own, his trainings were
monitored. He had specified time to train, time to
eat, eat food that is monitored and given the right
medication when it became necessary. Then he had
a planned calendar to participate in competitions
which are chosen so he doesn’t burn out before the
Games proper.
Do our athletes have all these already done for
them? When they tell you that our athletes are
training on their own, they are truly on their own.
They train when they feel like and eat whatever
they could afford which surprisingly include food
like beans and bread they buy across the road.
They take medication on their own and hence
unknowingly become victims of  banned substances
some times.
Recently eight of our athletes who won medals at
the 2015 African Games in Congo failed drug test
and have been banned for between four and eight
years. This calls for concern and the anti doping
unit of the sports ministry should be worried about
what to do so we don’t get the same
embarrassment in Rio.
It is pertinent to point out to the sports ministry
officials that it just 187 days to the Games and the
athletes and their officials want to know when their
camping, the closed one where those already
pencilled down for the Games, will start. At least
from then, the athletes could be monitored closely
to know what they eat, the medications they take
and how they train.
After visiting the training facilities in Lagos, Abuja
and the High Performance Centre in Port Harcourt,
it is time for the sports minister to ask how about
the athletes because we are way behind in our
preparations. In time past, the athletes should be
getting ready to embark on training tours abroad,
not only to fine tune their training but participate in
some championships so that they can peak as they
enter into the Games.
That was what the late Group Captain Brai Ayonote
did for the boxers on their way to posting
respectable results and podium performances at
the 1992 Games in Barcelona, Spain. That was the
era our athletics team gave the Americans a run for
their money.
It also important to remind the Minister that
President Muhammadu Buhari’s call for a better
performance in Brazil during the presidential
reception for victorious athletes should be taken
seriously otherwise we will be courting with a
repeat of the London 2012 disaster.

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