Athletics: Nigeria will shine in Tokyo -AFN boss
The Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) says all hands are on deck towards achieving a memorable outing at the Tokyo Olympics in July/August. President of the federation, Honourable Olamide George made the promise following the unveiling of AFN’s 2020 programme of activities in Abuja. George says the programme was designed to bring life back into the sport that has suffered from maladministration in recent years. ‘We have made athletes the focus of our programme and have designed one that will ensure they attain optimum performance level for both the African Championships and the Olympics,’said George. The AFN president says the athletes will begin running,throwing and jumping from next month with the All-Comers competition in Akure. ‘We have secured the venue and will provide accommodation for athletes based on last year’s performance. There will be no prize money for this because it is an All-Comers affair,’explained AFN president who revealed that prize monies will be introduced at the Classics proper beginning from the first AFN Classics in Ado Ekiti at the end of February. ‘We are bringing back the Classics,our annual series of elite athletics competitions which produced so many champions for Nigeria in the past. So far we have four legs of the competition and we are looking to see if we can add a fifth,’he said and revealed that the AFN Classics after the National Sports Festival will be used to evaluate athletes’ performances for the Olympics. ‘ We will use the National Sports Festival to invite athletes to our African Championship and Olympics camp. After that the AFN Classics will be used to evaluate their performances. We know there are athletes who may not reach peak form at the Festival and the AFN Classics will give these athletes the opportunity to get into our pre-African Championships and Olympics camp.’. George assures that the AFN is determined to return Nigeria to the podium at the Olympics 12 years after Nigeria won a pair of medals in the sport in Beijing, China. ‘We have some athletes that have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics and we are,through the competitions we have lined up trying to get a few more to make the qualification standard. More importantly,we need to get our relay teams to qualify for the quadrennial event. We are going to compete in some relays in the USA and Europe as well as utilise the two windows we will have at the African Championships in Algeria in June to either secure or cement our qualifications,’ he said and allayed fears the so-called crisis in the administration of the sport will distract the federation from executing its programmes for the Olympics. ‘There is no crisis in AFN. We are focussed on the Olympics and have submitted our programme to our supervisory body,the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development. We are lucky to have professionally minded and committed people in the Ministry headed by the indefatigable Sports Minister,Mr Sunday Dare. Recall his adoption programme in Lagos last December. It has helped greatly in reassuring our elite athletes that Nigeria is backing them all the way to the podium in Tokyo 2020 and beyond.’. The AFN president appeals for cooperation from Nigerians,especially the media as a new chapter of transparency and professionalism is opened in the administration of athletics in Nigeria.