The President of the Nigeria Wrestling Federation, Dr. Daniel Igali, has attributed the lack of structures and poor funding of sports in the country is the main cause of it unsuccessful outings recently.
Igali also, however, described the recent performance of the nation’s wrestlers at the just-concluded World Wrestling Championships in Paris, France as the most successful in the history of the country’s participation at the event.
At a parley with sports journalists in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, on Wednesday, Igali said out of the six wrestlers that featured at the world championships comprising two males and four females, three of the ladies ended up in the top ten.
He stated that with Odunayo Adekuronye’s silver medal, the first by Nigeria at the global show piece, and Blessing Oborududu missing out of bronze medal, Nigeria finished 10th on the overall medals table.
Igali, who is the chairman of the Bayelsa House of Assembly Committee on Sports, was however quick to point out that the men did not fare well.
He stressed that preparation of the athletes for the world championships was not as good as it should be owing to funding challenges.
While appreciating the support of the Bayelsa State government and a philanthropist, David Lion, for providing funding for the team’s participation at the global event, Igali expressed the hope that the Ministry of Sports Development would assist the federation to offset some of the extra financial expenses it incurred.
He decried the inability of the authorities to organize a reception for the wrestlers after their performance at the Africa and world wrestling championships.
Igali stated that the nation’s wrestlers won eight gold medals at the African wrestling championships some months ago and clinched a silver medal at the world championship but had not been formally received while the D’Tigresses who won the FIBA Afrobasketball championship for women only recently were instantly received and rewarded.
The President of the Nigeria Wrestling Federation emphasized the need for proper and adequate preparation for athletes to excel and win gold medals in major competitions.
He asserted that excessive focus on major sports events such as the African, Commonwealth and Olympic Games at the expense of regular tournaments. which serve as building blocks, is a major impediment to the performance of Nigerian athletes.
‘For you to do well at the Olympics, you must go to tournaments and win. There is need for our wrestlers to go to the world championships, three years before the Olympics for them to win gold medals’, Igali asserted.
The Commonwealth, World and Olympic champion, who excelled while competing for Canada noted that the absence of structures and systems, compounded by inadequate funding is responsible for the poor performance of the nation’s athletes in major sporting competitions.
He said governments all over the world have a major responsibility to provide adequate funding for amateur sports, stating that another set back to sports development in the country is late passage of the annual budget.
Igali explained that with no cadet team currently in existence in the country, it would be difficult to constantly replace aging wrestlers.
“Having won the hosting rights for the 2018 African Wrestling Championships to be held in Port Harcourt, we have huge tasks on our shoulders. Two new weight categories were approved at the last African Wrestling Championships, bringing the total to 10 now instead of eight that previously existed. We now have to create a cadet team comprising 12 athletes each in the female, free style and Graeco-Roman. That is 36 six national team members for just those within the age range of 15 and 17 years.
He said that the African wrestling championships is an opportunity for the country to get it right in the sport.
Igali noted that with 40 countries expected to take part in the fiesta in Nigeria next year, there is much to be done.
He said that the nation’s wrestlers would need as many tournaments as possible as well as all-year round camping to enable them learn new techniques and prepare for gold medal performance at major championships.
He noted that with many athletes not employed by sports councils and ministries, it is increasingly tough for most sports men and women to cope.
Igali said the Nigeria wrestling federation under his leadership would strive to ensure that the wrestlers have pre-tournament preparations in gold coast, Australia and Tokyo, Japan for the 2018 commonwealth games and 2020 Olympics to enable them get the necessary exposure to perform better.