Nigeria’s only individual gold medalist in Olympics athletics, Chioma Ajunwa, is of the opinion that allowing foreign-based athletes and elite athletes to participate in the National Sports Festival is a set back to grassroots sports development in Nigeria.
Ajunwa who won a long jump gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and setting an African record, a 7.12m distance which remains unbroken, argued that the NSF is meant to be a grooming ground for up and coming athletes.
“What confuses me here is that NSF has now become a competition where all our international athletes are coming to take part.
“I don’t know what we hope to achieve in allowing international athletes who have been representing this country, competing all around Europe to come and participate with the younger athletes.
“The NSF is for new talents from youth games; those from the clubs that are trying to find their feet to start competing for the nation.
“During my time, NSF was meant for people in Nigeria to get new talents and new breeds that will be able to participate in the open championship.
“It is only in Nigeria open championship that we normally bring in international athletes. To me personally, we are not giving the new breeds a chance to grow.
“The country as a whole is not gaining anything. It is only stated that want to win medals.”
“When you look at some of our African championships, some African international athletes do not come to participate, because to them, it doesn’t give them respect.
“The athletes themselves know that such championship does not add to their profile and they don’t have the needed challenge from such competition.
“They need competition that would challenge them to become world-class athletes”. She said the government was right to have postponed the Edo 2020 festival due to coronavirus concerns.
“We know that the coronavirus is everywhere now and Nigeria has taken the right steps by postponing the date of the National Sports Festival,” she said.