Tasks ministry, NOC to start planning for Los Angeles 2028
Former Nigeria’s rugby national team captain, Azeez Ladipo, has declared that with over 200 million population, comprising large number of youths, the country has no business playing second fiddle to any country in African sports.
He said Nigerian sports administrators should be worried that the country has won only three gold medals since featuring at the Olympics when countries like South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt and Morocco, among others, boast double of that number.
Speaking ahead of the Paris 2024 Games, which is less than eight months away, Ladipo blamed failure to develop long term strategies for success and poor investment in sports as reasons the country still struggles at international meets.
Ladipo, a member of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) Athletes Committee, as well as the general manager of Nigeria Rugby Federation (NRFF), urged the Ministry of Sports Development and the sports federations to e power ‘lesser sports’ to thrive, adding that the country could mine talents from these sports to excel at the Olympics.
“With a population of over 200 million people, a record of only three gold medals in the history of the Olympics is not good enough for the country. It shows that we are not a serious sports country. Countries like Kenya, South Africa and Ethiopia have the highest number of gold medals at the Olympics.
“We cannot just start preparing to win gold medals at the Paris Olympics and succeed. Such things are done immediately after the Games.
“The way forward is for the federations to start exposing athletes to such international competitions as the African Games and Commonwealth Games ahead of the 2028 Olympics in USA.
“Long term planning brings good results. High performance training of athletes and training of coaches must be achieved before the 2028 Olympics in the USA.
“The Olympics is the arena, where the best athletes in the world compete; it is different from other championships like the Commonwealth Games. The Olympics is where countries know their level of development in sports and we cannot continue to expect good results at the Games when there is no laid down plan and programmes for the discovery and training of potential gold medallists. Other countries start preparing well ahead for Olympics,” he said.
Ladipo advocated a system that would put talented athletes on scholarship to strive in future in the Olympics, adding that the country should invest in regular sports competitions to keep the athletes fit at all times.
He said, “Nigeria doesn’t have a national sport like Kenya that dominates in long distance races, USA and Jamaica that dominate in sprint and South Africa that dominates in rugby.
“The sports federations have to figure out areas in the country where a particular sport has more talents and focus on nurturing such talents.
“At the grassroots level, sports federations should go to schools that lay more emphasis on a particular sport and keep working with them to groom talents. Winning an Olympics gold medal takes long planning.
“With Nigeria’s population and stand in Africa, we cannot still be struggling with Cameroun, and Zimbabwe in terms of gold medals at the Olympics. Nigeria cannot be regarded as a sporting nation with its current record at the Olympics,” he said.
Among African countries, Kenya has won the highest number of gold medals at the Olympics with 35, they are followed by South Africa with 27, Ethiopia (23 ), Egypt (8), Morocco (7), Algeria (5), Tunisia (5) and Uganda (4).
Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Cameroun have won three gold medals each.