The recent showing of Nigeria's athletics teams at international competitions have shown that track and field sports are in serious danger in The country. This was further brought to the fore after Cote D’Voire claimed the men’s and women’s 100 metre titles and the men’s 4 x 100 metres title at the All Africa Games in Congo. Nigeria now relies on the frail shoulders of Blessing Okagbare for any hope of a medal at any international athletics meet while Nigeria continue to nationalize useless American mercenaries as well. And that is why Top Sprinter Genesis is now seen as the saviour of Nigerian athletics.
Top Sprinter is an ambitious project aimed at changing Nigeria’s sporting fortunes and at the national finals concluded in Lagos on Saturday with the numerous amount of talent on display, it is quite clear that Nigeria still has the ability to push even Jamaica and the United States out of the limelight.
Welcome to Sports Planet, your premium news and magazine sports show. Today on the show, we will be talking to a remarkable young man, Bambo Akanni about his revolutionary Top Sprinter Genesis project on the successful completion of its first season. Top Sprinter Genesis is a revolutionary project aimed at rebuilding Nigeria’s severely battered image in Athletics. The brainchild of Bambo Akanni, he has been supported by four former Nigerian Athletic stars and Olympic silver medalists. We spoke to Bambo on the conclusion of the first season of the project on Saturday…
Sports Planet: Bambo, for those who don’t know, could you please explain what this Top Sprinter Genesis project is about?
Bambo Akanni: Top Sprinter Genesis was conceived because we just felt that there was a need for revival in the Nigerian track and field. We knew that there was a need for a sustained talent search because we have talent in Nigeria that nobody is looking out for. And we just felt that the best platform to do this talent search was as a reality show because that would bring it to the awareness of Nigerians, not just in Nigeria, but all over the world.
SP: Well, this project took place over a period of eight months in three cities with hundreds of athletes whom you fed, transported and accommodated in three star hotels, how difficult was it funding all these and getting the logistics right?
Bambo: It’s been a big challenge, it started small in Lagos with about 70 athletes over three weekends and it’s just getting bigger and bigger in each city. 150 in Ibadan, 200 in Enugu, almost 300 in Benin and back to the finals in Lagos, so it’s gone bigger and bigger with each meet and I can see that the experiences of each one have helped inform how we plan the logistics for the subsequent ones.
SP: Interestingly, not only have you created this awesome project, you’ve also made it into a reality show. Is it airing on radio?
Bambo: The reality show has already debuted on T.V, precisely Vox Africa which can be seen on DSTV or even Sky in the U.K. We are very excited about it, we are already getting a huge followership for the program and people are seeing these athletes, and these athletes are seeing themselves run for the first time and the whole countries in the whole world are seeing that. So, the whole of the first season would be on T.V, from now till about March or April next year. Next year, we just hope to do things bigger and better. We were able to execute a whole season of this program without any sponsors. People would be wondering where we got our funding from and it’s essentially three or four individuals who just bought into this vision and put money together for this to happen. But we’ve already reached a stage where this is a project of national interest, and I will really implore and call on corporate sponsors to get behind this really exciting project because it is not easy. Three or four individuals have been able to do one season to show that this is an idea and a concept and this is a sport that Nigeria can dominate in five years with sustained effort. So, we are looking forward to a massive second season, hopefully, a longer boot camp that coaches can spend with their athletes in different locations across Nigeria and really start expanding the access that these athletes can have to world class training all over Nigeria. That’s the plan for the second season, next year is the Olympics, so it’s going to be an exciting season. We will see the senior athletes, hopefully, who would be training to get to the Olympic team, the junior athletes would hopefully be training to go to the World Junior Championships next year in Russia.
SP: So, is there a duration for this project? You mentioned five years a while ago.
Bambo: No, I think this project can run forever, hopefully. I mean you look at all the singing reality shows that came out of the U.K and the U.S, they have taken them to other countries. Meanwhile, some of them are in their tenth, eleventh or twelfth season. This could be the talent search vehicle that churns out talent for Nigeria every single year. Every single year, there should be a new pipeline of athletes that we’ve never seen before. We do have an age limit on our show and at the moment, it’s 14 and the idea is that every single year, there should be 12 and 13 year olds who are waiting and raring to go once they come of age to come and be a part of our show. We are excited about that and I think this show can go on for a very, very long time, five years is just the beginning to get on top in the world and from there, you consolidate. You keep doing it, keep moving forward, it shouldn’t stop.
SP: Finally, Bambo, what do you plan to get out of all of these?
Bambo: For me, the end game is seeing Nigeria win at something we can win at. I think it would bring glory to Nigeria. That was the thing that really gave me the passion to leave my job. I was working as a management consultant in South Africa, and before that at an investment bank in the U.K. So I left everything and moved back to Nigeria to start up this project because I believe so much, I have a very strong conviction that if we treat our athletes the same way they are treated in America, Jamaica and elsewhere, Nigeria would be on top of Track and Field. I mean in sprinting especially, jumping and hurdling, Nigeria would be a force to reckon with and we would not be dominated by anybody. So, that’s the vision, the goal and the dream for the next five years. Hopefully, by the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, people would be talking about Nigeria the same breath as USA and Jamaica.
SP: That was Bambo Akanni, the brain behind the revolutionary Top Sprinter Genesis project aimed at changing Nigeria’s athletics fortune. You can catch the Top Sprinter Genesis reality show currently airing on Vox Africa Channel 191 on DSTV.
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