Athletics Federation of Nigeria President Tonobock Okowa has hailed the Southwest Athletics Association over its successful organisation of the first South West Developmental Athletics Meet in Lagos on Friday.
Okowa who was a special guest at the event held at the Sports Ground of Yaba College of Technology says the zonal association has given a proper definition to grassroot sports development.
“I am delighted with the spirit behind the athletics meet. This is what the states and the zones should be doing because they own the schools and it is always better to catch them young so that they can be properly trained to become elite athletes that will grow to represent not only the states in the Southwest zone at major national event but can grow to become another Enoch Adegoke who made history as the first Nigerian man in 25 years to qualify and run in the finals of the 100m,” Okowa said.
He added: “This he achieved at the Tokyo Olympics to follow in the footsteps of the duo Davidson Ezinwa and Olapade Adeniken who made it to the blue riband event final in Atlanta, Georgia in the USA in 1996.”
The AFN president believes his federation will now focus on developing athletes discovered at developmental meets like the Southwest Athletics tourney and prepare them for podium appearances at major Continental, Commonwealth and Global championships and Games.
“With other zones taking a cue from what the South West zone has done, we will be sure of having a rich pool of talents we can plan to nurture and graduate to the elite class,” he added.
Spectators at the event were thrilled to see some of Nigeria’s former top athletes grace the occasion.
“I am particularly thrilled with the idea of introducing them publicly to the students, some of whom may be seeing them for the first time. I am also happy with the nexus drawn between sports and education so that the athletes know they can be as great and successful as Falilat Ogunkoya, Yusuf Alli and Enefiok Udobong who won medals for Nigeria at major continental, Commonwealth and global athletics events including the Olympic Games without dropping out of school as all the three introduced are University graduates,” said coach Tony Osheku who trained Ogunkoya to win two Olympic medals and set two African records at Atlanta Olympics.
Four out of the six states in the zone participated in the event with Oyo and Ondo states absent.