Thursday, October 28, 2010

British Star: Nigerian Athletes Are World Beaters

Fast emerging England 800m star, Marilyn Okoro, a Nigerian born British citizen in this exclusive chat with SportsDay’s Oke Oluku, says Nigerian athletes can rule the world if properly motivated. The Human rights campaigner, Politics and French graduate from the University of Beth also speaks on her real world and other salient issues.

What attracted you to athletics and how did you become involved?
I loved all sports: lacrosse, tennis, netball. I had aspirations to be a full international lacrosse player. But in athletics, which I started when I was 12 years old, I liked the fact that I only had myself to blame if things went wrong. Athletics is also a sport that takes you all over the world. And lacrosse can be a bit dangerous.

Where do you get your sporting talent from?
I think it’s in the genes. My mum and dad are of Nigerian origin and my tribe, the Igbo, is known for being tough, which you have to be in athletics. My mum is also quite strong, but I don’t think she was a runner.

Being a Nigerian who runs for England, what do you know about Nigeria’s athletics?
Well I know little about Nigeria but with the little I have seen their athletes do during international meets, the country has great potentials in athletics. All they need do is to give the athletes the best opportunity to prove themselves on track. I have seen the Africa 100m champion, Blessing Okagbare run, I have seen Seun Adigun do the 100m huddles, I have seen Tosin Oke and these are great people who can hold their ground anywhere. So they are good.

How was your upbringing like?
I am not in any way ungrateful for the upbringing I’ve had, but it has been tough and I think that’s what has fuelled my athletics career; I use it as a focus and an outlet.

Why did you choose England Instead of Nigeria where your parents are from?
Well when it comes to that, I don’t have the choice, I started when I was 12 and it was my PE teacher that encouraged me to do athletics. I am aspiring to be a great athlete and England is where my heart is at the moment.

If called to represent Nigeria, will you change your status as a British athlete?
When that time comes, I will know what to do but like I said right now, England is my home.

Tell us about your passion for human rights
I’m not going to stand on a tall building shouting about it, but it is important because it’s one of our fundamental rights. I went to Senegal recently and saw situations there. Often it comes down to decisions taken for the benefit of governments, not the people.

You are one of a raft of quality British female 800m runners. Does this act as a huge motivation?
At first it was daunting. But I don’t want an easy ride. I’m an athlete who revels in being pushed along. I compete because I want to get the best out of myself.

What is your favorite distance?
The 800m. The 800m is just edging it at the moment, but I still love the 400m. I think I’m designed for both.

What has been your highlight to date?
The 2007 IAAF World Athletics Final. I ran my (old) PB and finished third.

What are your ambitions?
Obviously, the London Olympics are always in the back of my mind. I also hope to acquire as much experience as I can. After that there are loads of things I’d like to do.

Which parts of training do you like and which do you dislike?
I used to find it hard to find a session I absolutely dreaded. Not anymore. It has to be mile reps; the good news is I’ve survived them during the winter months. My favorite session is anything that gets my legs turning over, like 200s.

Which is the best and which is the worst part of being an athlete?
The best part is that you get to see the world. My passport is so full, and I only got it in 2004. The worst is that you don’t get to spend a lot of time with your friends and family.

Advice for upcoming athletes
No matter where they come from, they should be focus and stay off drugs.

Osazuwa Harps praises On Team Nigeria

Nigeria’s 100m and 4x100m track star, Agnes Osazuwa has attributed the feat of Team Nigeria on the just concluded X1X Commonwealth Games in India to the collective determination of the team. She told okenaijaathletics.blogsport in a chat that though it was painful to her not to win a medal, she was sure it’s all in the process of her getting to the top.
“As regards the Commonwealth Games that ended some weeks back, the determination of the Team Nigeria should really be commended because it worked for us. Though I did not win any medal and despite all that happened I give God all the praise. It was a bit painful, but I believe its all in the process of getting me to the top for greatness.”
Taking a look at Nigeria’s athletics in 2010 season, the Edo born, Oyo state and Europe base sprinter said it was not a bad outing for the country’s athletes in the junior and senior level as the team traveled to championships and made the country proud with their outings, giving instance to the country’s participation in the IAAF Junior Athletics championship in Canada, the Africa Senior Championship in Kenya, the youth Olympics in Singapore, the Continental Cup in Croatia where some of our athletes where in Team Africa, the U-23 ECOWAS Games in Abuja and the Commonwealth Games in India, she said kudos should be given to the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) board, led by Solomon Ogba for giving Nigeria athletes the opportunity to participate in all the championships that took place this year while also saying sports administrators in Nigeria should put in more to assists the athletes, both foreign and local.
“I will say that 2010 has been good for Nigeria athletics so far, we have never had it so good, attending all the major championships of the year, kudos should be given to the AFN for a job well done. We had the opportunity to compete in all the championships, unlike before where they will say there is no money for such championships.
“With the commitment we have had so far, if more assistance is given to us, both foreign and local athletes, 2011 will be Nigeria’s year in athletics.”
Speaking on 2011, Osazuwa said, “By God’s grace 2011, will definitely be a year to watch, for especially with the world championships and the all African games, which is a step away from the Olympics. All been said, my training just got a bit upscale to prepare for the challenges ahead.”
Agnes Osazuwa left the shores of Nigeria for Europe on Wednesday

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Emedolu Bombshell

I’m Being Victimized

Former Nigeria 400m champion, Uchenna Emedolu has refuted allegations leveled against him by the National Sports Commission (NSC) on his dropping of baton on two occasions when he was on duty for Nigeria, which led to the ban by the NSC’s Director General Dr. Patrick Ekeji,
In an exclusive chat with, the Olympic bronze medalist who is heart broken with the treatment being meted on him by the NSC maintained that promises made to him by former president Olusegun Obasanjo in 2002 when he won the World Cup are yet to be fulfilled.
The Anambra born athlete however revealed that his ordeal started when he confronted
Dr. Patrick Ekeji during the U-23 ECOWAS Games that ended recently in Abuja and asked for his 3000 dollars being the 2008 Beijing Olympics allowance.  
“It is not true I drop the relay baton in Beijing. How can I have paid my way to the games only to sabotage the team? Some of the team members of the quartet are the guys that I trained what example would I be setting for them by dropping the baton?” He asked.
According to Emedolu, asking for his 3000 dollars, allowance own him from Beijing 2008 Olympics was the reason for him being victimized by Dr. Patrick Ekeji.
“I’m heart broken with the kind of treatment being meted out to me. I have won several medals for Nigeria, and even as we are talking, the former president Olusegun Obasanjo made some promises to me in 2002 when I won the world cup in athletics, till now those promises are yet to be fulfilled.”
“It was because I asked the Director General for the 3000 dollars allowanced owed me from Beijing 2008 Olympics, that I am being victimized.
“I told him (Ekeji) to facilitate the payment during the ECOAWAS Games that Nigeria hosted recently in Abuja. He told me that I was having some issues with a panel of inquiry, concerning my role in the drop of the relay baton in Beijing 2008. I was so upset; I did not attend the awards ceremony at the ECOWAS Games. That was when he ordered that I should be banned from the national team; he withheld a 60,000 bonus given to all the coaches.”
“On my way to Abuja for the ECOWAS Games, my car somersaulted and I almost lost my life, only for me to get this kind of treatment.”
Emedolu says he has spent his personal cash training athletes like Obinna Metu,
Onyabor, Nworgu, Joy Eze and even recently worked with Ogho-Oghene Egwero who ran a personal best of 10.10 during the ECOWAS Games in Abuja and that banning him will make upcoming athletes who are working with him to suffer as it will affect their performance.
“I have spent my money training athletes like Obinna Metu, Onyabor, Nworgu and Joy Eze and even recently I worked with Ogho-Oghene Egwero, thankfully he did his personal best at the ECOWAS Games.
“For now I want to lie low and observe the situation. But if I do leave coaching Nigeria will suffer for it, this is because I have it in my mind to produce quality athletes,” he concluded.
It would be recalled that Uchenna Emedolu was banned from representing Nigeria by the National Sports Commission (NSC) for allegedly sabotaging the country’s efforts at international meets despite the sprinter having retired from the track before now.
The sprinter’s ban came, sequel to statements made by the Director General of the NSC, Patrick Ekeji during the ECOWAS Games held in Abuja recently.
He was ban after a panel indicted him of sabotage of dropping baton during exchange at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Emedolu is one of Nigeria’s fastest men of all time with a 9.97 seconds posted on home soil at the 2003 All African Games held in Abuja which ranked him sixth on the country’s fastest times list behind Olusoji Fasuba, Davidson Ezenwa, Olapade Adeniken, Francis Obikwelu and Deji Aliu.
He was a member of Nigeria’s 4x100 metres bronze winning relay team at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. But in 2008 alongside Onyeabor Ngwogu, Obinna Metu and Chinedu Oriala failed to finish their 4x100 metres relay race due to a baton dropping.

Onyali Hails Team Nigeria’s Performance In India

Former Queen of the tracks, Mary Onyali-Omagbemi has described as incredible the performance of Team Nigeria to the Commonwealth Games in India but said that the best is yet to come. “We’ve done absolutely well but we can still do better”, as she continued playing her role-model work of encouraging athletes. “You can see that there is logic in coming with a fewer sports. The fewer the better. It is unlike in the past when we come with larger contingent and go home with fewer medals. What this means is that more athletes will have to strive to get to the mark of winning medals before they can be included. It’s the same thing that happened when I was still active on the tracks. Many who admired me had to work harder to be able to dethrone me. I feel we should keep this up by encouraging the athletes and not to go to sleep. Before you know it, the Olympic Games will be knocking on the door. This is the time to keep up the tempo”, Onyali told okenaijaathletics.blogsport

Sports Ministry, NOC stands by Osayomi, says Ekeji

 After having her gold medal withdrawn due to testing positive to Methylhexamine, a banned stimulant by the Commonwealth Games Federation in India, Damola Osayomi still has the backing of the Sports Ministry/National Sports Commission (NSC) and Nigerians.
Director General of the National Sports Commission, Patrick Ekeji said.
The Director, who came back to Nigeria on Wednesday afternoon told okenaijaathletics.blogsport that after he was fully briefed on the matter on Monday by the Nigeria’s chef de mission in India, Elias Gora, upon his arrival in Delhi he came to the conclusion that Osayomi could not have deliberately taken any substance to enhance her performance.
“Damola is one of our most consistent and dedicated athletes right from her days as a youth athlete. What she has taken is not an anabolic steroid, if it were, then there might have been the possibility that she was doping but as you know, what she has taken is a stimulant, which she did not take deliberately. It was administer to her as part of medication for some health challenge.
“Naturally, she is devastated by what is happening but we are standing by her. We are giving her all the support she needs and we are calling on Nigerians to be by her at a time like this. She has served Nigeria well and should not be abandoned,” Ekeji said.

NOC to Set Africa Games, Olympics Benchmark for Federations

The Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) has resolved to set a benchmark for all sports federations in the country for participation in the next editions of the All Africa Games and Olympic Games.
Disclosing this in a communiqué at the end of its Executive Board meeting held in Ashok Hotel, New Delhi, India, the NOC also congratulated Team Nigeria for its sterling performance at the  X1X Commonwealth Games in India that ends today, saying it was a sign of a better hope for Nigerian sports and a challenge to restore Nigerian sports to where it belongs.
"At the end of its Executive Board meeting held in New Delhi, India, the NOC agreed to set up a benchmark for teams to meet ahead of the next All Africa Games and the 2012 Olympics in Botswana and London respectively.
The communiqué, signed by Tunde Popoola, also noted that the sterling performance would positively improve the image of the Nigeria Olympic Committee and restore its credibility by making it the mouthpiece of Sports Federations.
That it will continue to partner with the National Sports Commission, ANOCA, IOC and private institutions in a bid to improve the dwindling image of sports in the country.
The NOC, according to the communiqué, also resolved to visit Lagos, Delta, Rivers, Taraba, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kwara and Gombe, states identified to be doing well in sports as a means of encouraging them to do more in the area of grassroots development.

Coach Uruemu Blames AFN, Sports Ministry For Damola, Okon Saga

Former Nigeria track star and athletes development Coach, Uruemu Adu has debunked insinuations from some quarters that Damola Osayomi should be blamed for taking performance enhancing drugs to buster her performance in the ongoing Commonwealth Games in India
While commanding Osayemi for giving her best, the Delta born coach maintained that kudos should be given to Team Nigeria for the splendid performance put on so far which he attributed to sheer determination from the athletes.
Reacting to the suspension and stripping of medal from Osayemi and suspension of Nigeria 110m men huddler, Samuel Okon, Uruemu stressed that people should take a cursory look at the cause behind athletes taking performance enhancing drugs.
Speaking with, the former athlete expressed displeasure on the action of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) and the National Sports Commission for putting so much pressure on the athletes without adequate support.
Uruemu also lambasted the AFN for placing most of the athletes on probation, which he says was a bad idea that can lead to anything from the athletes.
“Nobody should blame Osayomi for what happened to her, though I am not in support of athletes taking drugs from the counter without proper specifications from a reliable pharmacist, but I am not happy with the Sports Ministry and the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) on this issue.
 “There is no country that will not want the best from its athletes in every given tournaments. Our athletes will stand tall among the best in the world, but placing most of them on probation by the Athletics federation of Nigeria (AFN), was a bad idea, which like I said can lead to anything from the athletes.”
On the performance of the men 4x100m race, Uruemu said: “What happened was as a result of bad planning from the AFN. Dropping the men’s team was a bad idea which backfired in India, though he said a quick arrangement was made to fly extra athletes for the men’s team, but lack of understanding made the team to fail due to poor baton handling during the heat.”
He attributed the feat of Team Nigeria in the ongoing Commonwealth Games in India as a sheer determination from the athletes, who are ever ready to make Nigeria proud in international championships.
It would be recalled that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) recently loosened the classification of Methylhexaneamine for next year to the "specified stimulant" list, which covers drugs that are more susceptible to inadvertent use and can carry reduced penalties.
Sanctions for use of the drug can be reduced if athletes can prove they did not intend to enhance performance. Penalties can range from a warning to a two-year ban.
WADA said Methylhexaneamine was sold as a medicine until the early 1970s and has now reappeared in some nutritional supplements and cooking oils.
“We ourselves are concerned by the number of incidents that has cropped up with this same substance,” Commonwealth Games Federation President Mike Fennell said, noting that the change to WADA list does not go into effect until next year.
“Each year on the first of January, it becomes effective a new list. We are operating on the 2010 list," Fennell said. "Whatever changes were made this year will be effective next year, but we are operating under the 2010 list.”