BY DUSTAN AGHEDO, Lagos
Olympic gold medalist, Chioma Ajunwa-Opara has expressed displeasure and unhappiness over her existing record as Nigeria’s only individual Olympics gold medalist, a medal she won two and a half decades ago.
She said that the country’s inability to produce an athlete to equal or surpass that feat on the podium, was a clear reflection that the nation’s sport was not progressing, and as such, game changing interventions from the government and other private parastatals and individuals cannot be over-emphasised.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP Sport, the former athlete, who won gold in the women’s long jump at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta said, “Some athletes might be happy they have a record unbeatable but not for me. I believe we call it a competition because it ought to be competitive, and a record that has stayed these long means that the country is not progressing, it shows that we are still crawling and that does not give me joy.”
The police officer, Ajunwa-Opara, noted that support has always been a major challenge and there was little or no support for athletes that have the passion to drive themselves and the nation to be among the best, towards ensuring that there are new breeds that can come up and take over from the household names that have been representing the country.
“I believe that if all the people that are in the grassroot sports could get support either from the government, private organisations or individuals, we will have a lot of athletes that can compete against the best because we have so many talented athletes here in Nigeria, the problem however has been who wants to bell the cat”.
“To win an Olympic gold is not an easy task, to even get any medal at all in the Olympics is not easy. If we have people that could go to nooks and crannies of this country to pick the talents and start grooming them, we will be like the American or even better than them in the area of grooming athletes. But the government is not even thinking in that direction we are thinking”.
“You have to commit money, resources, energy and exposure to all kinds of facilities before you will be able to get somebody that can represent the country and get Olympic gold,” Ajunwa-Opara added.