6th March, 2013
There are strong indications that Lagos State Government is out to reclaim its lost glory in athletics in Nigerian sports.
The state’s performance in sports in the last few years has been impressive, but the administration of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola is leaving nothing to chance to ensure that Lagos reclaims what hitherto has been its birthright in sports in the country.
P.M.NEWS Sports gathered that part of the strategies to bring back the glory is staging of competitions where budding athletes will be discovered to replace the aging athletes and partnering of private sector has been identify as one of the ways to solve the problem.
One of such tourneys in 2013 is the ongoing Premier Lotto Lagos Athletics Championship. The organisers of the competition disclosed that plan is to discover athletes that would be nurtured to represent the state and later the country in international track and field competitions.
Lagos had always been a force to reckon with in track and field events behind the old Bendel State, but this has since changed.
Some of the officials said that for Lagos to return to the zenith of track and field in the country, grassroots programme like the Premier Lotto tournament must be staged on a regular basis.
A board member of Athletics Federation of Nigeria, AFN, Gloria Obajimi lauded the organisers and the athletes taking part in the championship, saying that the tourney has been organised according to the standard approved by the AFN.
“For us to make it right in athletics in this country we need to continue to give our young athletes the opportunity to showcase their talents. I am very happy that Lagos State, through the Ministry of Sports, partners Premier Lotto to give our upcoming athletes a chance in this schools championship. And as you can see the athletes themselves have not disappointed us through their performances and enthusiasms,” Obajimi said.
She tasked athletes to focus on the sport in which they know that they have the edge over the others. The former Nigerian international also called on government and other stakeholders to support young athletes in the country, saying that it would help them remain focused in their chosen careers.
In related development veteran athletics coach, Tobias Igwe said he sees a very bright future for the athletes participating at the tourney, while urging the organisers to keep the athletes together because they can help the state win laurels in the future.
Onyedima Chukwu, a track and field scout from United States of America noted that athletes discovered at the ongoing tourney can win medals for the country at the World Junior Championship.
According to him, “I have seen some promising athletes in High-Jump, Javelin and even Shot-put not to talk of the track events, but the only problem I envisage is that the coaches and technical officials may have difficulties in spotting talents, the state government should also endeavor to sustain the tourney.”
Some outstanding athletes in the competition include Yetunde Fajobi of Government Senior College, Agege and Franklin Okpara of Alimosho Senior High School. Fajobi ran 13.9 sec to win the girls’ 100m, while Opara ran 11.8 sec to emerge the winner in the boys’ 100m, International School Lagos’ Balikis Yakubu, won the girl’s 100 and 200.
It was gathered that Governor Fashola has given a directive that tournaments should be organised on regular basis to keep the facilities used for the last National Sports Festival running.
A source, who craved anonymity said: “Pupils in Lagos State are in for a swell time because the governor has ordered that we should organise competition regularly so that the facilities would not rot away.”