Monday, 25th September 2023

NSSF seek government, private sector support as ISF record breakers relish exploits

By Adaku Onyenucheya
25 May 2022   |   2:42 am
Still savouring the euphoria of the country’s record-breaking performance at the 19th International School Sport Federation (ISF) Gymnasiade in Normandy, France, Nigeria School Sport Federation

[FILES] Stadium track; EMORYWHEEL

Still savouring the euphoria of the country’s record-breaking performance at the 19th International School Sport Federation (ISF) Gymnasiade in Normandy, France, Nigeria School Sport Federation (NSSF) President, Olabisi Joseph, has called on governments at all levels and the corporate sector to help develop the sport at the grassroots level.

Nigeria broke a 50-year jinx at the 19th ISF Gymnasiade and put the country back on the international school sports map. With 10 athletes competing in athletics events, Nigeria won one gold medal in 3000m to finish 21st on the medals table in the competition, which featured thousands of athletes from 63 countries in 20 events.

Six of the athletes made it to the final of their various events, while Ronke Akanbi of Yewa College claimed the only gold medal for Nigeria in the girls’ 3000.

Speaking during a reception for the 10 Nigerian athletes in the just concluded ISF event, NSSF President, Olabisi Joseph, said: “We are so excited with the performance of the athletes that with little training, they were able to rub shoulders with their counterparts across the globe.

“For most of the athletes, this will probably be the first time they are travelling outside the country and with the unfriendly weather in France, they held sway against their counterparts which for us as a federation has shown that with quality preparation, we can have our athletes making it to the podium in most of the events.”
She said Nigeria had not participated in the event in the last 50 years, adding that the gold medal broke the jinx in France.
“I am proud of our children, getting to France, they competed with their counterparts from 63 other countries across the world. On the general medals table, we are 21st, even though we participated in one event out of the 20, we still made it to the medal table and it is something commendable.

“In the athletics event, we were 10th. We have learnt a lot from this world event… we have learnt that we should prepare earlier so that we can win more laurels. We will be working with the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, to integrate these children into the mainstream of athletics in Nigeria.
“We will continue to encourage our children to participate in more events to create more platforms for them so that by the time we go to the next international school sports federation event, we will come home with bags of laurels.”
Apart from the laurels in France, Joseph was also elected as the first African woman member of the International School Sports Federation (ISSF) executive committee.
To create more opportunities for Nigerian children to excel in sports, Joseph called on the Federal and state governments, the Ministry of Youths and Sports, as well as the Ministry of Education and corporate organisations to support school sports and give students with talents the opportunity to compete with their counterparts worldwide.
“We cannot allow the stars we have to rot away in this country, let us give them the opportunity to participate and compete with their counterparts across the world and ISF has that platform. We will be able to build a stronger team from Nigeria to ensure we are not missing in all ISF organised events,” she added 
Team Captain, Temitope Olusesan, said it was a privilege to captain the team, adding that it was an exciting experience to represent Nigeria in the competition, as it exposed them to so many opportunities in sports.
She expressed happiness that they were able to bring back a gold medal and put the country on the list of medals winners in the world competition.
Olusesan joined the call for support from the government and the private sector in providing infrastructure to enable students to hone their skills and be able to compete effectively with their foreign counterparts.
Team coach, Ernest Ijeoma, thanked the NSSF for giving students the opportunity to represent the country, adding, however, that the team would have done better but for inclement weather and unfamiliar food, which affected the athletes.
He said the students participated in 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 3,000, relays, shot put, discus, long jump and triple jump events.