OBAJIMI: ’OUR ATHLETES WILL HAVE IT TOUGH!’
Posted: Jul 28, 2012
Athletics guru, Rotimi Obajimi, pessimistic about Team Nigeria’s chances...
With the kick-off of the 2012 Olympics in London, do you think Nigerian athletes to the Games prepared well enough?
I’ve made my opinion known severally but again, talking about our athletes preparations for the Olympics, I think we could have had it better. The Games comes every four years which gives every country a great deal of time to prepare but we always tend to leave things late.
There should be systematic programmes aimed at sustaining and most importantly, improving on our past performances at the Games. That has to do with having proper structures for development of our athletes in place which to a large extent is lacking. Such would require meticulous and sincere planning, having the funds and all necessary facilities on ground, coupled with regular avenues to expose our athletes. Our chances of doing well at the games is based on adequate preparations and I sincerely don’t think the athletes have had the best we could give in that regard. But the Games have kicked off and we can only hope for the best.
Nigeria came tops at the African Athletics Championships in Porto Novo. Do you see that as an indication that our athletes would do well at the Olympic Games?
We had a good outing at the African Athletics Championships no doubt and I think that should put the athletes in a good frame of mind going to the Olympics. But we must not lose sight of the fact that the Olympics is the biggest stage as far as athletics is concerned. In London, we’ll be competing against not only African opposition but also against the very best all over the world and of course you can’t compare that atmosphere with what our athletes experienced in Benin Republic.
However, the form our athletes have displayed especially in the last one month in some events they have featured in is quite encouraging. If they can maintain the tempo, keep their focus and peak at the Games, then we should be able to ruffle a few feathers.
In what events do you think Nigeria stand a good chance of winning medals at the Games?
I’m an athletics person and in that area, Blessing Okagbare remains our brightest hope. She has been in good form and I can only pray she sustains the splendid form she has displayed in recent times, when the chips are down in London. Initially, she was having trouble in the sprint but the form she displayed recently at the Diamond League in London where she won the 100 metres race has been encourating. It is still going to be tough at the Olympics but she now stand a chance of getting a medal in the sprints.
I’m also hopeful she can pick a medal in the long jump. She has really improved in that event of late and the good thing is that her recent effort is much better than what fetched us a bronze at the last Olympics four years ago in Beijing.
Then we possibly stand a chance of winning a medal in the women’s relay. The relay quartet to the African Athletics Championships did well to clock a championship record in Porto Novo recently. Of course, they’ll face a much stiffer competition in London but if things go well, they look good enough and could possibly come out out with a medal. There could be other events outside track and field where our athletes might also win some medals, but I’m not too familiar with those events and as such can’t give a qualified assessment.
There is so much pessimism in the air surrounding Nigeria’s chances of winning medals at the Games. Do you foresee the possibility of our athletes pulling some pleasant surprises?
You can’t really blame those people who have written off our athletes’ chances of winning medals at the Games because in most cases when you’re talking off sporting competition at the highest level like that of the Olympics, most of the times, what you get is determined by what you put in. Our athletes would be competing against the very best in the world in all the events they would be taking part in and that leaves very little room for any rash surprises.
I’ve mentioned preparations earlier. You can’t compare the preparations our athletes have had with those of the topmost countries who have the tradition of winning medals at the Games. Of course, once in a while - and which is very remote - you can have some surprises, but most of the time, one can know the athletes that have the potentials of winning medals, based on their performances in several meets year-in, year-out before the Olympics year. The performance data of athletes are well documented which can be easily monitored via the internet these days and from there, one can measure the chances of our athletes when going for such a big event as the Olympics. Against such backdrops, there is very minimal chance of surprises. All indications show that our athletes would be in for a tough time at the Games despite some of the medal prospects we now have.
Perhaps the D’Tigers debut qualification for the Olympics basketball event is one instance...
Away from athletics, we can call that a good example of pleasant surprise but don’t forget that the bulk of the players in our basketball team are based abroad where they are already exposed to world class infrastructures and facilities. Besides, those players rub shoulders with the best playing for their respective clubsides abroad which helped the coach to put together a formidable team. It is indeed a great feat that the D’Tigers qualified, if you consider the stiff opposition and high ranking teams they beat enroute picking the Olympics ticket in the qualifiers. However, qualifying for the Olympics is one thing. Going all the way to win a medal at the Games proper is another thing entirely. But of course, I will be delighted if D’Tigers can give us another surprise package by winning a medal at their debut outing at the Olympics.
Having examined the positive and negative sides of Team Nigeria’s readiness for the Olympics Games, do you think Nigerians have reasons to be optimistic of a good outing in London?
That depends on what we, as a nation, consider to be a good outing. The best outing we’ve ever had at the Olympics was at the Atlanta ‘96 Olympics. Since then, our performances have been on the decline. We have not been able to build on the success we had in ‘96 where we won two gold medals, a silver and three bronze medals.
We are supposed to be improving on our past performances at the Games which should be the yardstick to measure how well we are fairing. As things are presently, our athletes going to the Games were not given any set targets as regards medals expectations. To be candid, our prospects of surpassing the achievements of Atlanta ‘96 is not very bright as there is hardly any event were we have solid assurance that we can win a gold medal. Of course, we can point to a few prospects as I’ve mentioned earlier, but they are no guarantee. But as Nigerians, we are a very strong people and hopefully that could reflect on our athletes performances in London.
Our men’s and women’s football teams will not be featuring at the Games. Do you think that would take some shine off the Games as far as Nigerians are concerned?
Our non-qualification for the football event will not take any shine off the Games. It is one of the decline I’ve mentioned earlier and it is sad. But no one will miss our teams except we ourselves in London. Football is very popular amongst Nigerians but that shouldn’t mean we should undermine other sports. Our focus for now should be on the other events we will be participating in at the Games. Perhaps, some Nigerian football fans might switch their allegiance and attention to basketball where D’Tigers will be competing.
Finally, can I take that to mean you are not writing off Team Nigeria’s chances at the London Games?
What I have tried to point out in this discourse is that we could have had better preparations to boost our medal winning prospects. My criticism is not directed to the athletes but to our system of doing things. And if our athletes’ performances especially in the last one month prior to the Games is anything to go by, then one can be optimistic of our chances of picking a few medals. But it is going to be very tough.
Thanks for speaking with us, Sir.
Today on Complete Sports
Most Recent Stories
- » ISAH AKOR: I‘M GOOD ENOUGH TO PLAY FOR SUPER EAGLES (0 comments)
- » OKOCHA BACKS NFF ON CUT MEASURES (0 comments)
- » Lewandowski Coy on Next Move (0 comments)
- » Wenger Wanted Becks (0 comments)
- » BESIKTAS LEAD IN ENERAMO CHASE (0 comments)
- » EMENIKE SET FOR FENERBAHCE RETURN (0 comments)
- » HULL SACK OLOFINJANA (0 comments)
There are no comments