Why Nigeria lost top sprinter Ogunode to Qatar, by AFN
The Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) has explained that the country lost one of the world’s fastest sprinters at the moment, Femi Ogunode, to Qatar due to poor funding.
Ogunode placed second behind America’s Justin Gatlin at the Diamond League 100m in Shanghai last week. While Gatlin ran 9.94 seconds to win the race, Ogunode returned in 10.07 seconds.
Before the Diamond League in Shanghai, Ogunode, who hails from Ondo State, ran the quickest time this year, 9.91 seconds in Florida in April. He is currently Asia’s fastest man.
Speaking with The Guardian yesterday, AFN’s spokesman, Olukayode Thomas, said poor funding for athletics in Nigeria was one of the reasons the country continues to lose top athletes to other countries.
“If you have a grassroots programme that produces quality athletes every year, one will not bother if some of our athletes change allegiance to other countries. But the main focus in Nigeria is always the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and the African Games. There is no money for the AFN to focus on inter collegiate and high school sports. It is a big problem,” Thomas said.
The Ondo State-born Femi Seun Ogunode started his career as a footballer before he moved to boxing and finally athletics.
He once explained that ‘because of politics of everything in Nigeria’ he could not go far in football. “I had no godfather and this in turn caused me not to get playing time, therefore, opportunities to show my talent was really rare. I was a striker in those days. That discouraged me and I decided to try another sport (athletics).”
Apart from sprinter Ogunode, Nigeria has also lost a female hurdler, Oluwakemi Adekoya, to Bahrain. She has a personal best of 54.59 seconds – a Bahraini record and is currently one of the best hurdlers in the world.
In 2011, Adekoya established herself as a hurdler at national level in Nigeria, placing fifth at the All Nigerian Championships. In 2012 she improved her best to 57.16 seconds at the Confederation of African Athletics meet in Warri.
In 2013 she set a new personal best of 55.30 seconds, finishing runner-up to Muizat Ajoke Odumosu, Nigeria’s leading hurdler, and also set a flat 400 metres best of 52.57 seconds.
She later switched nationality to the oil-rich Bahrain even though attempts by some AFN officials to block the move failed.
“As I said, money is the name of the game. Adekoya is being paid $5,000 monthly by the government of Bahrain. Can she get such amount in Nigeria?” Thomas asked.
Meanwhile, Thomas has said that the latest move to ban up to 31 athletes from the Rio Olympics Games is for the good of athletics.
IAAF said yesterday that up to 31 athletes from six sports could be banned from competing at the Rio Games.