30th April, 2012
Wheelchair tennis player, Adewale Alex has won many laurels for Nigeria at various international tourneys. In this interview with ANTHONIA OHIERO, Alex lamented the low standard of the sport in Nigeria and other issues
Let’s have the details of your wheelchair tennis career?
I have been playing since 2005 and the sport has taken me to different countries in the world. I have been to Kenya, South Africa and some European countries. These are countries that I had never dreamt I could ever travel to in my life if not for the sport.
For instance, I just arrived from Kenya where I represented Nigeria at the London 2012 Paralympics qualifier and the World Team Games billed for Korea in May. I am happy that I am able to win slots for the country in the two games, where I will represent the country in both single’s and double’s events.
How will you rate wheelchair tennis in Nigeria?
The standard of wheelchair tennis in Nigeria is very low if we put a lot of factors into consideration. In fact, many of us that have travelled beyond the shores of this country know that we need to put some structures in place for us to meet international standards. Wheelchair tennis in Nigeria is still far behind when I compare it with what is obtainable in some of the countries that I have visited.
In what aspect do you feel the country is lagging behind compared to the countries you have visited?
As I said earlier, Nigeria is no doubt lagging behind in different aspects of the sport. We don’t have standard training facilities for the development of the sport in the country. The implication of this is that there is no way our players can compete at the same level with their counterparts in other countries if these facilities are not put in place.
For instance, the wheelchairs that we use in training are the 2006 model, while they are already using the 2012 model in some countries. Apart from that, we still need to improve in the aspect of statistics and organisation.
In what areas can the government be of assistance to the sport?
I think the Nigerian government has a major role to play by improving the sport in the country. The government can help by providing sufficient funds for the sport. This will give the players an opportunity to feature in international competitions outside the country and go on foreign tours, which will give us the necessary exposure in the sport.
Government also need to provide modern training equipment for the players. We need standard wheelchairs and rackets, which are important in the game of wheelchair tennis. Having enough training equipment will facilitate our training sessions and prevent the situation in which players have to take turn to train because the equipment can not go round.
What are your expectations at the London 2012 Paralympics and the World Team Games in Korea?
Nobody goes to war and wish to come back defeated. The same applies to me and my colleagues who will represent Nigeria at the two games.
We are determined to win laurels for the country in London and Korea.
Our fans know that we always win medals for the country anytime we go for competitions. So, I want to assure them once again that we will not disappoint them this time around. That is why I am appealing to the government and corporate bodies to assist us, so that we can begin our camping programme as soon as possible.
Do you think Team Nigeria can have a medal haul at the Paralympics?
I don’t think the country can achieve much if we consider our preparation for the games. The fact is that we are so used to the fire brigade approach in this country whenever we are going for international tournaments.
But truth is that magic cannot win medals at games. It is the preparation that the athletes have prior to the games that will help them. That’s why I am appealing to the government to support us so that we can start our camping programme in good time. Anything short of good preparation, Nigeria may flop at the Paraylmpic Games.