London — Blessing Okagbare has sent some words to Nigerians: "I'm sorry I couldn't win any medal here. I worked so hard, spent resources to prepare well only to be frustrated by injury. I knew what the expectations were and I really wanted to live up to them. But here I am. I'm sorry."
The sprinter who won bronze in the Long Jump event of the Beijing Olympics could not qualify for the final of same event here. Before then, she had reached the final of the 100m event winning in all her heats but placing last with a time of 11.01 after posting two personal best times running 10.93 seconds and 10.92 in the first heat and the semifinal respectively.
When it mattered most Blessing ran in pain as she had scooped injury. "I have pains. It's a cramp," she said as she left the stadium after the final.
Many sports buffs had expressed fear that the pressure on Blessing might make her crack at the London Games. The whole country relied on her for a possible gold medal.
Nigeria would celebrate if a bronze medal comes their way. Their athletes fell here on a daily basis. The Games end tomorrow.
Ajoke Odumosu was another Nigerian in a final. She ran the 400m Hurdles and after setting national record, she placed last in the final too.
But she left the stadium, with her head high, saying that running in the final of an Olympic event was a no mean achievement. Odumosu was one athlete who had to borrow money to prepare for the Olympics. Nigeria, her country, could not help her when she needed help most. Okagbare said she invested her own resources too.
"I know the investment that I made to get to where I was before that final. I'm still shocked at the way the injury came. In seconds, everything I worked for is gone. But you know that it happens in sports. I'm really disappointed but I'll move on. I believe in the supremacy of God and I know that I'll be fine".
Nigeria's performance here has been awful. And sports minister Bolaji Abdullahi admitted so in the press conference he held here Thursday to say the same thing his predecessors always said at the end of each Games. "Preparation for the next Games will start immediately," the minister told about 50 journalists here.
But the poise to start early preparation dies shortly after such statements. Abdullahi said his would be different. But practical experience in Nigeria shows that reforming sports in the country goes beyond the sports ministry. There might not be any headway if the federal government would not reform the sports ministry itself and if the state governors do not play their role