After failure to present athletes at the last Africa U-20 Junior Championships in Algeria in 2017, the World U-20 Championships in Finland in 2018, and the last U-18 World Championships in Kenya, the Athletics Federation of Nigeria has concluded plans to feature athletes at both events coming up in Cote d’Ivoire from April 16 to 20. AFN Technical Director, Sunday Adeleye, spoke to The Interview. Excerpt…
The trials for the Africa U-18 and U-20 Athletics Championships took place at the Gateway International Stadium, Ilaro, recently, what can you say about the athletes and their participation?
I have to be honest with you that I am quite impressed that our athletes are really doing very well within their age categories. We had been the defending champions in the past and we won the preview U-20 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2015.
At the moment, it is very difficult for us to say we are going with 10 or 20 athletes; we are actually going with a full team this time because of the performance of the athletes during the trials. We have young talented athletes doing what they know how to do best and we are proud of them.
With what you saw at the trials, do you think Nigeria will easily win titles at Abidjan?
We won’t just be going there to win the titles alone, but to surpass what we had achieved in the past, especially in terms of medals returns.
In the past we sometimes left some events while concentrating on others like sprints and part of field events and we sometimes left the long distance. This time, we are going with the long distance; the throws, jumps and many more events so we will get more medals. We are left with no choice than to go with a full blown team.
We must also try our best as a federation to compensate these junior athletes with this competition. They must attend this competition because if they don’t, it is going to be a terrible sign for them after a generation missed the last one in Algeria two years ago. It will affect their morale negatively
The major problem in the past had been funding; what are you doing to solve this problem and are you planning to camp the athletes ahead of the championships?
No matter how close, we still have over a month and we are going to go to camp, even if it is for 15 days. We must also try our best as a federation to compensate these junior athletes with this competition.
They must attend this competition because if they don’t, it is going to be a terrible sign for them after a generation missed the last one in Algeria two years ago.
It will affect their morale negatively. If we go with a team to compete, they will start to believe in us and come out always for trials and preparation as they are sure of attending competitions. Competing against their age mates across the continent will surely give them more confidence ahead their career.
With the trials now over, any idea of where the athletes will be camping ahead of the championships?
We are looking at our High Performance Centre at the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Although we are looking at other options but the AFN is solely responsible for sponsoring the competition, since we don’t have any support from anywhere, including the government for now.
It has been AFN board members who are trying to do our best to ensure these athletes compete at championships, whether youth, junior or senior.