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How appalling facilities prevent universities from grooming sportsmen

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
02 April 2016   |   11:01 pm
Less than five months to the Games of 31st Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the country’s sport is waist deep in the swamp.
Fasuba... hit limelight as a student of Obafemi Awolowo University in 2003

Fasuba… hit limelight as a student of Obafemi Awolowo University in 2003

Less than five months to the Games of 31st Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the country’s sport is waist deep in the swamp. In fact, when the Games begin on August 5, 2016, there may not be any athlete produced by the Nigerian universities in the individual events.

It is sad that a country with an estimated population of over 170 million and more than 100 universities still depends on its foreign-based athletes (FBA), especially, students from American universities.

A lot of sports commentators and analysts have lamented the dip in potentials of Nigerian universities to produce talents for major events as this. Since Nigeria’s appearance and participation at the World University Games (FISU), it was only in 1975 that a home-based athlete, the late Major Taiwo Ogunjobi, won a bronze medal in 400 metres hurdles in Rome. Foreign-based athletes won subsequent medals in 1983, 1985 and 1987.

In recent years, Nigerian universities have failed to produce elite athletes for international sports competitions. Compared with what happens in most successful sporting countries of the world such as, the United States, Russia and Germany, whose athletes are recruited from the universities, Nigeria depends on its foreign-based athletes (FBA) produced by universities outside the country.

In the early days, the Nigerian Universities Games Association (NUGA) — founded in 1966 — helped in discovering notable athletes like former Green Eagles players Felix Owolabi and Adokiye Amiesimaka, both members of the 1980 squad that won the Africa Nations Cup, Seyi Olofinjana, also a former member of the Super Eagles; Hamid Adio, veteran broadcaster, who captained Nigeria to many international competitions as a track and field athlete; Enefiok Udo-Obong, Daniel Effiong (Daniel Moses), Olusoji Fasuba and Bisi Afolabi, as well as captain of the Nigeria Basketball team, the D’Tigers, Olumide Oyedeji.

Nigerians will not forget the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games’ 4X400 relay, when the Nigerian anchor, Udo-Obong, a home based athlete (HBA), produced by the University of Calabar, ran the race of his life, outpacing four runners to give the country silver medal, which later became gold. It was like he was chasing death to ensure that Nigeria won something. Another HBA from one of Nigeria’s universities, Chika Yagazie Chukwumerije, won a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the heavyweight category of taekwondo.

Why US Schools
Dominate The Olympics

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the top 10 sporting colleges in the US alone accounted for 317 of the 10,500 athletes, who competed. Twenty-five of the athletes from the University of California Berkeley wore the colours of countries other than the U.S. They include, Israeli swimmer Guy Barnea and Canadian rower Scott Frandsen and Serbian swimmer Milorad Cavic, who Michael Phelps edged out for the gold medal in the 100-metre butterfly.

The school with the most athletes at the Beijing Olympics was Stanford with 46 competitors. The school’s biggest contingent came from its swimming team, which provided eight athletes competing for five different countries.

University of California-Berkeley and University of Southern California tied for second with 41 each. USC Trojans have won a gold medal in every Olympics since 1912.

Fourth was the University of Florida. Its swimming team furnished a host of international athletes. Nineteen of their swimmers competed for 13 countries.

At the London 2012 Olympics, 477 of the athletes were from the 20 best Olympics schools in the US. University of Southern California and Stanford University produced the highest, with 40 each, while University of California, Berkeley came third with 38 and University of Florida was fourth with 34.

The U.S. Universities won more 2012 Olympic medals than so many countries. If the University of Southern California had contested as a country, it would have placed 11th with 25 medals, 12 of which were gold.

University of California, Berkeley would have placed 15th with 17 medals, 11 of which were gold. While University of Michigan would be 25th with 12 medals, of which eight were gold.

How did these schools end up with so many foreign Olympians?

Universities in the United States are famous for recruiting sporting talents from all over the world with their relaxed admission policies. The institution seeking to admit the athlete eases both admission and visa requirements. Elite sports programmes and scholarships are a powerful lure.

Sportsmen are well catered for and extra lectures/tutorials are organised for athletes who miss lectures while representing their institutions. These opportunities are non-existent in Nigerian universities.

The Guardian gathered that US schools invest a lot of money in providing standard facilities and equipment, athletic scholarships and other forms of motivation. Innocent Egbunike, Chidi Imoh, Henry Amike, Sunday Uti, Ajayi Agbebaku, Airat Bakare, Kehinde Vaughan, Tina Iheagwam, Mary Onyali, Mary Tombiri are some of Nigerian beneficiaries of this gesture.