London Olympics 2012: Our Failure as Families By Sulaimon Mojeed-Sanni
Now that London Olympic 2012 had come to an inspiring end, with records broken and new ones set. Victorious athletes will beam with smiles and valour as they raise their nation’s flags like true combatants who had won a much publicized war, as they journey back into the waiting arms of spectators who would want to have a glimpse of their medal crested necks (it does not matter if its gold or bronze, at least something around the neck), Team Nigeria won only laurels of emptiness amidst the wealth expended in the course. Despite this abysmal performance, I would implore Nigerians and indeed those who flied our dear Green,White,Green to let us collectively live up to the billings of those words, New York Times, used in captioning the gallant, never-say-die and patriotic spirit of the nation’s Basket Ball Team, D’Tigers; Bruised and Beaten, but Nigeria’s Basketball Players Are Unbowed. I would have advice we remain unshakened by this occurrence and look beyond the immediate.
But we are one nation that never learns. We apportion blames, criticize a lot but we are never willing to be part of the solution of our woes. Our failure at the Olympics I would say is not only a national failure but a representation of what all the families in the country made it. And it is a disservice on the part of every individual family that has failed to put at least one member of their family into competitive sport activities most especially the social critics. It is not about criticizing the government every now and then, but being part of the sub-structure that a new nation can stand. Countries that won medals are those who planned, prepared with state of the art facilities and in the end, they brought prestige to their respective countries.
Though the Minister for Sport Development, Bolaji Abdulai tries to show some sincerity of purpose, we all know he is just basking the calamity of the moment and nothing would happen until six month to the next Olympics in Rio, Brazil. We often forget that a loser has to commence training immediately while the winner is still beclouded in the euphoria of victory. The London Olympics 2012 had 205 nations in attendance, featured 302 medal events and a total of 79 countries having a shot at the medals table. United State of America dominated the table with a total of 104 medals; Gold 46, Silver 29, Bronze 29. China 87 medals; Gold 38, Silver 27, Bronze 22. The host country proved its worth by coming distant third with a total of 65 medals; Gold 29, Silver 17, Bronze 19. In Africa, countries like Gabon, Botswana, Egypt, Uganda , Algeria etc all made representation on the table. Even hardly heard countries like Latvia 1 Gold and a Bronze, Grenada 1 Gold, Azerbaija 2 Silver and 5 Bronze, Taipai 1 Gold and a Bronze, Tajikistan 1 Bronze etc but the most populous country and giant of Africa had none.
Of the 302 medal events,Team Nigeria with a total of 116 members: 55 athletes, 12 coaches, 29 administrative officers/officials, 9 medical officials, 5 contingent officials and 6 secretariat officials only participated in 8 games: basketball, table tennis, athletics, weightlifting, canoe slalom, boxing, wrestling and taekwondo. Our participation in the Olympic started dated back to 1952, except the boycotted 1976 Olympics, Nigeria has participated in every summer Olympics. Within this time frame, Nigeria had succeeded in gathering 23 medals inclusive of 3 Golds. Most of the medals had been in athletics and boxing with just one in football at the Atlanta 1996, where we filled the best football team so far. And since Barcelona 1992, this Olympic would be the first we didn’t win even a copper! The Nigeria Olympic Committee, the National Olympic Committee was created in 1951 so we have no excuse of being greenhorns in the trade. But why do we often fail?
Which is the crux of this piece.
Why I have taken the pain of the statistics, is to make us understand that with 60years of Nigeria’s introduction to the Olympics, we can only present athletes for just 8 of 302 medal events. What this means is, as the sporting event evolves, Nigeria has remain stagnant. There is no academy that trains youth in various sports and the one ready point-able is Pepsi Football Academy. But can we all be chasing after the round leather ball? Again we must understand that the Olympics have evolved into a platform for the youth to showcase their talent with little addition of experienced hands. But ours is the presentation of old hands who still fail to bring home medals. Most of the Medals won by China were gotten by athletes under the ages of 16-22.Lia Neal that won bronze medal in the 4x 100 swimming freestyle for the U.S was just 17. Mohammed Aman (Ethiopia, 18, Long distance runner) took 6th.
Those sport men and women that controls media glitz today all started out at tender ages. Usain Bolt start athletes at a tender age back in his Primary school. Russian World number 2 Maria Yuryevna Sharapova made her professional breakthrough in 2004 at age 17, when she defeated two-time defending champion and top seed Serena Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon final for her first Grand Slam. She was given her first tennis racquet at the age of four, whereupon she began practicing regularly with her father at a local park. At the age of six, Sharapova attended a tennis clinic in Moscow run by Martina Navratilova and that begin her success story. Tiger Wood started at the age three and was trained by his father in the early years. The Williams sisters were both coached from an early age by their father Richard Williams and the list remain endless.
Back home in 2010, the Nigerians populace was acquitted with the heroic efforts of Romoke (13) who is turning into a long tennis goddess, by Ogbeni Tunde Fagbenle in the Punch Newspaper. Romoke is been handled by her father who doubles as her coach, Mr. Dapo Adegoke. As at the year in question, she was ranked 3 in Africa in the 14-and-Under Circuit of the Confederation of Africa Tennis (CAT). This happened because the father saw a reason to put her in the line. What this article is driving at in essence is, the failure of the country at the Olympics and other sporting events, is the failure of families to engage their wards in one particular sporting event (please enough of trying to making a Kanu Nwankwo out of every youth i.e. football).
There is no way Nigeria’s sport environment will develop with or without government support if the parents don’t feel inclined to encourage their wards to do competitive sport. Development of sport knowledge should be made compulsory up to Senior Secondary School level because knowledge of sport in children at a young age is essential for them to develop passion for it.
Parents must insist that their children practice and play year-round to insure they have the best skills necessary to compete and be a starter in high school and on their club teams which would sooner or later lead them to the bigger screen because once they feel the need, they aim to be the best. In Australia, there is the Little Athletics club uniquely designed for Australian children from 5 to 16 years. As the name suggests, the club is created to train youths in sport of athletics (track and field). And across Australia it has more than 95,000 girls and boys in its fold. Our government can take clues for this.
The journey to Rio 2016 in Brazil has began, let the parents and social critics get involved beyond the pages of newspaper.
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