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How Nigeria’s Ministry Of Sports Got It Right At Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games

…Ensures nation’s best performance in history of games

…Pivotal role played by Sport Minister

…Pragmatic steps taken with adopt-an-athlete initiative, pre-games synergy, provision of athletes’ bonuses, etc.

BENJAMIN OMOIKE

Team Nigeria produced the best performance by all African participating nations to the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Nigeria ended in seventh position overall on the medals table, winning a total of 35 medals: 12 Gold; 9 Silver; 14 Bronze, to effectively erase the previous record of 11 Gold, 11 Silver and 14 Bronze medals at the 2014 games in Glasgow, Scotland.

With the feat, the team set six records: Four Games Record; one African Record and one World Record. This is unprecedented in the history of NIgeria’s performance at the games.

Team Nigeria at the Commonwealth games in Birmingham
The 4×100 women’s relay team that won gold

Many sports analysts, observers and stakeholders have been heaping praises on the Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, for the pivotal role he played in this huge achievement in an international competition of this magnitude.

They praised his strength of purpose and backstage job which culminated in the commendable achievement of the athletes.

Male athletes

According to Kenny Martins, Sports Marketing guru, “You can never take out the efforts of Sunday Dare from this win. He was very intentional and put in the work that produced the awe-inspiring results we are all celebrating today.

“Allow me break this down: He propelled the Adopt-An-Athlete Initiative. This initiative was launched in December 2019 at the Lagos Civic Centre. Before this launch, consultations with athletes and Federations nationwide were carried out to find the root cause of the challenges athletes faced which impeded their performances at the Regional and World Stages.

Sports ministers Sunday Date with Team Nigeria

“Some of these challenges were identified as unavailability of funding/grants, unavailability of scholarships, inadequate support, amongst other challenges were established.”

Martins says a lot of the athletes didn’t have enough income to survive. “They spent a lot of time trying to earn a living rather than spend time to further develop their skills.”

“Giving them financial support would make a difference. Their profile spoke for them and made them marketable.

“Since the initiative kicked off, some home-based athletes now get as much as $10,000 paid directly into their accounts and managed solely by them. Some use it to pay for their coaches, kits, nutrition, health insurance etc.

“Foreign-based athletes now earn $20,000 due to the fact that they definitely have a higher overhead. It is worthy of note that a number of state governors were very supportive: Delta, Edo, Ogun, Lagos and Ondo all embraced this initiative and supported our athletes.

“Kudos to the corporate world who also embraced the Athletes: Fidelity Bank, Zenith Bank, UBA Bank and Access Bank all made a difference.”

He stated that 38 athletes in total are beneficiaries of the Adopt-An-Athlete initiative.

Pre-Commonwealth Games

It is understood that three months before the Commonwealth Games, 21 meetings were held at various levels just to make sure all bases were covered. “Now, this is active preparation and being deliberate about your goals.”

“AFN did very well in working with the athletes.
Coaches and technical crew were also fantastic. They did an amazing backroom job.”

“Nine games where Nigeria ranked amongst the Top 50 worldwide, were chosen for us to participate so we could maximise our strength.”

What the Minister did differently

“He ensured that the athlete’s allowances, bonuses and award money must be available 48 hours before their games. Before most athletes competed in their games, they had their allowances readily available to them. Some allowances were increased and new bonuses activated.

“There is now readiness check-boxes for all Games where Nigeria will be represented.”

It was revealed that due to unavailability of funds, four out of nine championships were chosen. ‘It was agreed that it was better to go to the Games that can assure our athletes are taken care of 100 per cent.”

Issues now have timely interventions

Some remarkable results: Beyond the Gold Medals, looking at the statistics, what the men achieved was last achieved 27 years ago. What the women achieved was last achieved 30 years ago.

“Minster Sunday Dare has promised they will mine the data from our past events. The Ministry will them proceed to sit with Athletes through the Federation, seek programmes to support them and see what other support can be given.

“President Buhari has approved the first Sports University in Nigeria. Another icing on the cake is that the National Sports Industry now has a policy that has reclassified sports as Business and no longer as Recreation. This policy will deliver a working plan between Private Sectors and The Federal Government. This way, the funds the Ministry doesn’t have can easily be made up for.”

Performance at the Games

Recapping the Games and the medal haul, reigning World Champion, Tobiloba Ayomide Amusan, didn’t disappoint her teeming fans as she made another history as the first Nigerian track and field athlete and the second in history to successfully defend a Commonwealth Games 100m hurdles title.

In another breathtaking performance, the 25-year-old also set a new 12.30 seconds Games Record on the way to winning the event’s gold.

Amusan wasn’t done as she joined the women’s 4x100m relay quartet to win her second gold medal of the day and Team Nigeria’s first ever Commonwealth Games gold in the event.

Team Nigeria women’s 4x100m quartet of Tobi Amusan, Favour Ofili, Rosemary Chukwuma and Grace Nwokocha achieved the feat in record-breaking fashion, running 42.10 seconds to break the barely one-month-old 42.22 seconds African record they set in Oregon, USA at the World Athletics championships.

Amusan started the historic run with a brilliant first leg before handing over to Ofili who ensured Nigeria maintained the advantage before giving the baton to Chukwuma, the individual 100m finalist.

She then ran the curve perfectly and handed it over to reigning Nigerian 100m queen, Nwokocha who maintained the advantage despite the threat by Great Britain’s anchor leg runner, Darly Neita to bring home Team Nigeria’s first women’s 4 x 100m relay gold.

The men’s team of Udodi Onwuzurike, Favour Ashe, Alaba Akintola and Raymond Ekevwo also made history with the bronze medal win.

The medal is the first by the men’s 4x100m relay team since 1982.

World’s silver medalist in long jump, Ese Brume who missed the last edition in Gold Coast put the icing on the cake when she leapt to a Games Record of 7.00m to win Nigeria’s third gold medal of the day.

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