Epunchng - Most read newspaper in Nigeria Sunday, August 13, 2017 - Page 61

Sunday sports August 13, 2017 61 London 2017: Nigeria’s loss, others’ gain •Ireland hope to turn Adeleke (left) and Akpe-Moses (right) to global stars Continued from Page 60 all represented the Arabs. For the Arab kingdom to turn Nigeria’s talents into world-class, all they needed to do was grant the them citizenship, which in some cases include a change of name, create an enabling environment for them and they’ve got world beaters on their hands ready to take on the best. Born in Lagos on May 17, 1994, Morolake Akinosun relocated to the US with her parents at an early age. The young sprinter was a member of Team USA’s 4x100m women squad that won gold at the 2016 Olympics and the Pan American Junior Championships in 2013. In London, Akinosun would have to turn to the relays for a medal chance after placing fourth in 11.12s in the 100m behind winner Tori Bowie (10.94s), Deajah Stevens (11.08s) and Ariana Washington (11.10s). Despite the fact that Nigeria lost some of these athletes to countries where they were born, the country has also been hit by the loss of home-grown talents to other parts of the world. This has been adduced to the inability of the sports authorities to identify, nurture, groom and also create an enabling atmosphere for the athletes to thrive. Thus, coaches, retired and active athletes believe Nigeria’s loss will always be the gain of the likes of Bahrain, who have world-class facilities, superb welfare package and the right atmosphere and platform to propel athletes to global stardom. “Nigeria only have the raw materials for talent production, but with no factory to process them,” Athens 2004 Olympics bronze medallist Deji Aliu, said. The resultant effect is that Nigeria, once the dominant force in the sprints and relays in Africa, have been overtaken by countries like South Africa, Ivory Coast and even Botswana. South African Wayde van Niekerk is one of the outstanding athletes in London winning gold and silver respectively in the men’s 400m and 200m respectively while Ivoirian Marie Josse Ta Lou claimed silver in the women’s 100m. Ekpo-Umoh blames officials Former German athlete Nigerian- born Florence Ekpo-Umoh defected from Team Nigeria camp in Germany in 1995 and went on to represent the European nation. In 2002, she won the European Championships gold with the German 4x400m relay team. Ekpo-Umoh, who had represented Nigeria at the 1994 World Junior Championships, said she dumped Nigeria for Germany when officials favoured some athletes over the others. “I was so proud and happy to represent Nigeria at the Worlds in 1994 and wearing the green and white colours of the country. That was my first big championships and the feeling was so strong,” Ekpo-Umoh said. “I switched allegiance to Germany because I had this feeling that if I stayed one more year in Nigeria, my career would end. I saw athletes begging to make the team. It was a big shame. They (officials) chose who would travel and so I took the bold step to leave. “I pledged allegiance to Germany because I saw a better future ahead of me and a lot of opportunities if I represented Germany. So, I trained hard to become one of the best when I joined the government team.” Trend may continue The retired athlete, who vowed that her kids would not represent Nigeria in future, said the exodus of the country’s best athletes would continue if officials didn’t create an enabling environment for them to pursue their careers. Ekpo-Umoh added, “The Germans have between three and five training camps in the indoor and outdoor seasons and meets. They also have meetings for the officials and coaches on how to improve their programmes and also encourage the athletes to perform better. “Here (Germany), athletes have the right to speak on how they feel, whether they are okay with an offer or not but that is not possible in Nigeria. In Nigeria, you are scared to speak your mind because they will drop you from the team. Athletes are risking their lives just to make the country proud, yet they are made to suffer. They (athletes) are suffering and I pray God should help them out.” The 39-year- old found herself competing against Nigeria at the World Championships in 2001 and at the 2000 and 2008 Olympics