Nneka Anibeze, Abuja: Barrister Solomon Dalung, the Youth and Sports Minister has restated that grassroots sports development remains the only route to rebuilding the country’s sports.
The Minister said this while congratulating Team Nigeria which returned from the Regional African Gymnastics Championship in South Africa where they won a total of 11 medals comprising 2 gold and 9 bronze.
Barrister Dalung who is in London for the 2017 IAAF World Athletics Championships congratulated the gymnasts whose ages ranged from 5 to 15 stating that it was time for Federations, Coaches and other stakeholders to start scouting for athletes from primary and secondary school sports competitions.
“The victory recorded by these young athletes in Gymnastics shows that there’s no short cut to building our sports back to limelight. These children who won 11 medals in South Africa are below 18 years. The coach has promised that he is building some of these youngsters for the 2020 Olympics and I’m sure that by then, these children would be matured and ready for bigger challenges ahead.
“I congratulate you for this victory and I charge other sports administrators to look towards getting new talents from the schools. Even here at the World Championship in London, some of our representatives have been around for many years.”
Dalung said the inability of Team Nigeria to register her name on the medals table cannot be detached from the failure to prepare for the future.
“Most of our present elite athletes are fading out of the scene. No matter how long we try to mask it, it will be impossible to cheat nature.”
According to him, “No matter how good an athlete is when he clocks 30, the law of diminishing return will start setting in. So in such a situation, a replacement plan should be embarked upon in earnest.”
“The emergence of Cote D’ivoire and South Africa in the 100m and 200m recently cannot be far-fetched from their grassroots programs for the future.”
He enjoined state Directors of sports, Federation Presidents, Zonal coordinators, Technical Directors of sports federations and developmental coaches to focus more on unearthing talents who will take over from the present set of athletes.