Ex-international and national athletics coach, Olu Sule, has said sheer will of athletes and not preparation will make them excel at the track and field events of the African Games in Morocco and the IAAF World Championships later in the year:
As an athletics coach and an ex-international, what can you say about athletics in the country now compared to your own days?
I think we have to refer to sports as a whole, for some time now it has been a downward spiral in sports and this cannot continue. In a situation where there are no sports policies and structures, things are bound to crash.
The government has not been helping also, and the corporate bodies are not doing as well as they are doing in other countries.
For me, I will say it has not been fine. In our days, it was working a little bit, but for some time now it has not been working. I think we are back to picking up again like the old days.
Whether we like it or not, work for it or not, Nigeria will surely pick medals here and there at the All Africa Games and the World Championships. Not because we deserve it, not because we work for it, but just because it always happens
The National Sports Festival was off for six years but it returned last December. Would you say the country may have lost so many talents?
Definitely, numerous talents would have been discovered from this meaningful festival, six years is not a joke.
If we look at the current people making waves in the country at the moment, they are those that were discovered during the last two festivals — Garden City Games in Port Harcourt in 2011 and Eko 2012 in Lagos State.
They are still the ones on top of their game.
2019 is a big year for athletics with the All Africa Games and World Championships. What is your expectation of Nigerian athletes both overseas-based and home based?
The point is something always works for us every year. Whether we like it or not, work for it or not, Nigeria will surely pick medals here and there at the All Africa Games and the World Championships.
Not because we deserve it, not because we work for it, but just because it always happens. People will tell you whether you like it or not Nigeria will get to where they want to be.
The problem is that we are supposed to be leading the world, not just managing. If we don’t plan to win, we will always plan to lose.
Sincerely, 2019 is here and the season of athletics is here already. Just like before, we are going to have Nigerians going out there putting on performances here and there, and picking up medals, but at what level?
Waiting for America or Jamaica to throw away their chances and we can come in third position as we usually do? But these things are not supposed to be like that, we are supposed to work hard and get to the top.
Imagine the rest of the world are preparing, they have the data of their athletes already, have their camps, they have everything working for them, but here we are, we don’t even have any plans on the ground.
You go to anybody they tell you there is no money; you go to government, they will tell you the budget is not out yet, how can things work like this?
That is why we have been calling the Federal Government to put up a structure whereby we don’t have to keep running back to the government for funds.
If you put out structures that people know will be self-sustaining, we will be like the rest of the world, like America.
We are supposed to be giants; naturally we are blessed in this country, we can go to any village and bring out champions, go to Delta State, bring out a lot of champions but even if we discover them, how do you nurture them? How do you take them to the promised land?
That is the problem because all this requires money, time and planning. If you ask me about 2019, I will tell you it is still going to be the same thing.
If you put out structures that people know will be self-sustaining, we will be like the rest of the world, like America
You are in charge of jumps and we have a certain athlete that just moved to the United States, Grace Anigbata, who is doing well at the moment. What can you say about this athlete who at a time was a football referee?
We saw what she was capable of doing even before now; we all saw it coming. It took her time to actually come out the way she was supposed to do but we had seen her even from the outset.
She was into high jump for a very long time; for a while I was telling her to leave high jump because it’s not really her thing, but to concentrate on triple jump.
Eventually she did and so if you see her performing now, then it is not out of place. As a matter of fact, she is yet to begin, when she gets to her peak, she will be a world beater.
Her moving to the US is a good one for herself, her family and Nigeria as a whole. I am sure that girl is really going to make us proud very soon.
Another athlete, Divine Oduduru, at the moment is also on fire. What can you say about him?
Well, I will say let’s hope and pray for him to maintain that form. Divine is naturally gifted and he has been like that since when he was a junior.
What has been going for him is his humility. He has been able to manage his career unlike some other young athletes. He was injured for a very long time and nobody was there for him.
He went through this on his own, now he is back everybody is seeing him and talking about his performance without bothering to know how he was able to manage himself to return to action.
These are some of the things we are talking about. We have some other athletes in America and other parts of the world who can actually do great things and achieve a lot for the country, but they are angry with the system and some of them actually decided not to even compete for Nigeria because they know that the country might not be ready to support them when the need arises.
I will advise we leave Divine alone for now; whatever he can deliver, let him do, we should let him take it step after step and we should not put him under any pressure at the moment.
He has achieved some incredible times at the moment and I see him doing much better than he is doing at the moment.
The indoor season is over now; let’s see what he can do when the outdoor gets underway.