6 January 2019

Nigeria: Athletics Development - NSE Uko Can Rule the World, Okon Predicts

Some sports analysts had questioned the rationale of throwing open the 2018 National Sports Festival in Abuja. However, Imabong Nse Uko gave these experts, and indeed the Nigerian athletics family quite an amount of thrill to ruminate over.

Nse Uko, a 14-year-old secondary school student smoked the big names in Nigerian women 400m to win the gold at the National Sports Festival. And now Athletics Federation of Nigeria, AFN officials, have their eyes on the kid with a view of grooming her to become a world champion in the shortest possible time.

"Her performance at the National Sports Festival didn't surprise me like it did other athletics officials," said coach Gabriel Okon, who is the South South representative on the board of the AFN.

"But I must confess that I didn't see her beating the likes of Yinka Ajayi and Praise Idamadudu in the final of the women 400m.

"It was a thrilling development. And I can tell you that if given the right training, she can rule the world in the women 400m.

"At the Akwa Ibom trials, she posted 54 seconds and in a short while she did 53 seconds. In Abuja she lowed it to 52 seconds and in that final it was pure magical seeing her running 52.35 seconds to win the gold."

Okon disclosed that Nse Uko is a natural born athlete who on her own, has conditioned herself by running to and from school right from a tender age on the sandy beaches of Ibono community in Awka Ibom State. Adding to that; she is also an avid football player.

"She is an athlete we have been monitoring for the past two years. I have a programme drawn up for her and coach Daniel Umoette who is on ground in Uyo has religiously followed the programme.

"The amazing aspect of it is that she is still growing. We are not loading her with training, she works out about three times in a week, for now she is just enjoying herself.

"By the time she adds some muscles and start lifting weights in the gym, she will develop into a world class athlete Nigeria can be proud of," said Okon.

He added that the Akwa Ibom State governor, Emmanuel Udom should assist by providing her with financial assistant so that she can get the correct conditioning and training, since she is already in good hands.

"Of course it cost money to produce a world champion. This is where I hope the governor will come in and assist us.

"Already we have moved Nse Uko from the village to Uyo for close monitoring. She is living with the Akwa Ibom Atletics Association secretary, Jane Bassey.

"We don't want the situation where she will recruited by Arab countries who are in the look out for young Nigerian talents."

Okon stated that Nigeria has a strong 400m women tradition both in men and women, stressing that with the likes of Nse Uko and others like Favour Offil, the country can boost of good runners like Falilat Ogunkoya, who currently holds the African record at 49.10 seconds.


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