By Dare Esan:
The Embassy of Finland in Nigeria has described as false reports in the Nigerian media that they were responsible for the inability of three young Nigerian athletes to travel for the just ended 17th IAAF World U-20 Championship in Tampere, Finland.
Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) Secretary General, Amaechi Akawo had informed Complete Sports three days before the start of the championship that the federation was having difficulties in securing entry visas for sprinters, Joy Udo-Gabriel and Enoch Adegoke as well as long jumper, Arinze Benjamin (all pictured above).
In reaction to a Complete Sports enquiry via e-mail, the Embassy of Finland revealed that they did not receive any correspondent from the AFN about the championship and did not receive any request for visas.
“Thank you very much for your message, and for giving the Embassy the opportunity to comment on the issue. The Embassy has actually not received any visa applications related to the said sports event,” wrote Mirva Kulmala, Third Secretary, Embassy of Finland.
Complete Sports’ attempt to get the AFN Secretary General and its president, Alhaji Ibrahim Gusau to react to the revelation from the Embassy of Finland proved abortive as the duo did not reply the text messages sent to their telephone numbers after failing to get them on phone.
Complete Sports also sent a text message to the Honourable Minister for Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung whose ministry supervises the AFN to react to the revelation, but also met a brickwall as the Minister did not also respond to our enquiry.
The world governing body for athletics, the IAAF gave Nigeria a quota of two athletes that would have enjoyed an all expense paid trip to Tampere for the championship.
Meanwhile, Kenya topped the medals table for the championship which ended last Sunday with a total of 11 medals made up of six gold, four silver and one bronze medals followed by Jamaica with four gold, five silver and three bronze medals.
The United States of America (USA) came third with a total of 18 medals made up of three gold, eight silver and seven bronze, while Ethiopia came fourth after winning three gold, two silver and four bronze medals.
The championship has launched many Nigerian athletes to stardom and this list includes but not limited to Falilat Ogunkoya who won the gold medal in the 200m at the inaugural edition of the competition in 1986 in Athens, Greece and would go on to set an African record in the 400m, win tow medals at the same Olympics and run in four consecutive 400m finals at the IAAF Worlds.
Glory Alozie picked the 100m hurdles silver at the sixth edition of the championship in Sydney in 1996 and would go on to make the podium at the Olympics and the IAAF flagship event, the World Championships.
Francis Obikwelu successfully completed a sprints double in 1996 and would three years later win a bronze medal in the half lap event at the IAAF Worlds in Seville, Spain after running the fastest time (19.84 seconds) in the world that year at the semi-final stage.