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I lost U.S. Open judo title to new rules, says Disu

By Christian Okpara
17 September 2022   |   4:06 am
Excellence is ingrained in Nigeria Police Force’s DNA. The Force, which has been noted, the world over, as one of the best performing law enforcement agencies in peace keeping activities, has also been at the forefront of Nigeria’s sports development, even before the country gained independence from Britain.

Disu, flanked by two American police officers, after his final match at the U.S. Open Judo Championship.

Excellence is ingrained in Nigeria Police Force’s DNA. The Force, which has been noted, the world over, as one of the best performing law enforcement agencies in peace keeping activities, has also been at the forefront of Nigeria’s sports development, even before the country gained independence from Britain.

Apart from giving the nation some of its finest international athletes, the Nigeria Police Force has also accounted for two of the country’s only three gold medals at the Olympic Games.

In fact, the Nigeria Police Force, through Chioma Ajunwa, won the country’s first individual gold medal at the Olympics in 1996. In 2000, the late Sunday Bada, a Superintendent in the Force, led a group of young Nigerians to win the country’s third gold medal at the Sydney edition of the Games. The country’s football team won the other gold medal in 1996.

Since then, the Nigerian Police Force has, through its yearly Games, thrown up fresh talented athletes to represent the country at international championships.

But, although the Force is acknowledged as one of the best incubators of talents for the country, it surpassed itself recently in the United States, where one of its top officers, Olatunji Disu, braved all odds to win a silver medal at the 33rd U.S. Open Judo Championship.

Disu, a 56-year-old deputy commissioner of police, against all odds, overcame the opposition to become the second best fighter in the veterans’ category of the U.S. Open.

Although this latest feat did not come as a surprise to those in the country’s judo circles, the audacity of the achievement reverberated around the world that even major international news outlets had one thing or the other to say about the judoka.

The reason is simple: The U.S. Open is a competition that involves the best judo athletes from across the world, and so, for a serving policeman to have the power, talent and endurance to climb the podium indicates that such an athlete is not an ordinary fighter.

After many attempts to get to the ‘very busy’ Disu, The Guardian finally caught up with him last week.

Disu, who disclosed that he faced many challenges, ranging from going into such a big event without a coach due to visa issues, said his feat pales into insignificance when considered against the discipline and support the Force gives its officials.

He said: “The U.S. Open Judo Championship can be compared to the U.S. Open Tennis Championship, which attracts the best tennis players to New York.

“I fought in the Masters’ category, which featured veterans and former champions from across the world.

“The person I fought in the final is one of America’s Olympics veterans, but that didn’t deter me.

“In fact, I was once leading on the cards, but because I was alone without a coach and supporters, I had no way of knowing what was happening outside the ring or the turn of events.

“I must commend the American Police Force, because they rallied round me, when they discovered that I was a police officer too.

“At the U.S. Open, I was punished for falling foul of the new rules of the game, which I did not know about. But I am happy that despite all the odds, I was able to get to the final of the championship.”

The Commander of Nigeria Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) attributes his success to a well-laid out programme by the Police Force to encourage its personnel to reach for excellence at all times.

Narrating his sojourn in sports, Disu said he was actively involved in sports while he was a student at St. Gregory’s College, Obalende, Lagos and at the University of Ilorin.

He said: “I did taekwondo while in the university, but I later switched to judo, where I won gold medals at Police Games and at the 1990 National Sports Festival.

“Combining sports with my work as a policeman has not been easy, but I am fortunate to have superior officers, who understand the importance of sports to an officer’s development.

“ I have always tried to keep fit every Saturdays in every state I find myself no matter how tight my schedule is.

“I was once chairman of Lagos State Judo Association for two years, which gave me opportunity to know almost everybody in the Nigerian Judo community.

“So, wherever I go, I try to locate and train with their judokas.”

Disu, who is currently chairman of Nigeria Police Judo Association, has been at the forefront of the efforts to use sports to rid the streets of crime.

He disclosed that the Nigeria Police Force has encouraged his sporting activities, adding, “even the Inspector General of Police is an ardent sportsman, who encourages officers to engage in activities that help to build their fitness.”

Disu describes judo as a tremendous and dynamic combat sport that demands both physical prowess and great mental discipline with so many health benefits, both psychological and physical, especially in children.

“It is important for my job that I know how to defend myself. I try to persuade other policemen to take to judo because of the health benefits.”

He said the Inspector General of Police encourages all officers to try to engage in sporting activities on Thursdays at least two to three hours daily.

“I am member of two worlds, the Police Force and the sports community. It might interest you to know that the Police brought judo to Nigeria through two officers, who were taken to Japan to train on the sport.

“On return, they started spreading the sport across the country. In fact, the first set of judo mats they brought from Japan are still in Ikeja Police Command.

“ASP Giwa, a retired officer and David Marshall of Jos Division are among the first people to embrace judo in Nigeria.”