The Nigerian contingent to the on-going African U-18 and U-20 Athletics Championships in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, have risen above the hardship they faced en route the competition to top the medals table on day three yesterday.For three days, the athletes and officials trudged to the venue by road following the sports ministry's failure to provide the necessary funds. The team arrived Abidjan a few hours to commencement of events, with fatigue hampering their preparations for the competition.
However, when competitions started at the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Abidjan on April 17, the Nigerians were able to prove why they are called 'giants of Africa.' They won all three of their medals from the field events on Day 1, and consolidated by picking seven medals on Day 2.
Team Nigeria won five medals in the short sprints alone, with Enoch Adegoke grabbing the men's 100m gold, with an impressive Season's Best (SB) of 10.27s. Two South African athletes picked the silver and bronze.In the women's 100m, Nigeria's Rosemary Chukwuma got the gold, also setting a Season Best of 11.62s. Another Nigerian, Grace Nwokeocha settled for the bronze.
In the Girls 400m final, Nigeria's Favour Ofili stormed to a Lifetime's Best of 52.27s.In the field events, Nigeria won two medals in the Boys' Long Jump and Discus events.The Guardian recalls that the contingent left Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State on four luxury buses at about 5.00 a.m. on April 13 with 85 athletes and an unspecified number of coaches.
Meanwhile, a board member of the AFN, Brown Ebewele has blamed the sports ministry for Team Nigeria's financial woes in Abidjan. Speaking with The Guardian yesterday, Ebewele said: "When it became obvious that the sports ministry was not forthcoming in our request for funds, I personally called one of the aides to the sports minister, and her response was that 'oga' (Solomon Dalung) and the Permanent Secretary have travelled abroad.
"It was shocking to me because this was the same sports ministry that said there was no single kobo to sponsor the athletes to such an important competition. Where did the 'so-called ogas' get the money for their trips abroad? Our athletes left for Abidjan without a single kobo to eat on their way. Nigerians can now see how wickedness on the part of Dalung and his people in the sports ministry is killing Nigerian sports."