Poor funding cost Nigerian wrestlers Olympic medals, says Daniel Igali
President of the Nigeria Wrestling Federation, Daniel Igali, has said that the athletes to the Rio Olympic Games in Brazil would have done well if the necessary funds were made available on time for proper training.
Team Nigeria ended the Games with only a bronze medal won by the Under-23 Eagles. The soccer team defeated Honduras 3-2 in the third place match. However, the failure of Team Nigeria to rise up to the occasion at the biggest sporting fiesta was attributed to earlier training tours cancelled by the federations due to paucity of funds.
Speaking with The Guardian on Thursday, Igali, a gold medallist for Canada at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, said the wrestlers to Rio performed within the purview of their preparation.
“I think the athletes have done their best considering the level of preparation they had. This truly counted against them, yet they gave their best. More so, our wrestlers were not lucky as they were paired with top ranked wrestlers at the early stage of their ties. The pairings were not favourable to them. This I will say accounted for our early elimination from the competition.
“This year’s Olympics was full of surprises and I was equally banking on it for my athletes. The Olympics overwhelmed a lot of people, myself inclusive. Athletes that were expected to win gold medal under any normal circumstance never got to win any. For the next Olympics, I can confidently say that in the next four years we can go out there and win medals. Our wrestlers should be the one to be beaten.”
Igali dreams of producing wrestlers that would be ranked highly in different weight categories before the next Olympics.
He said “this is necessary so that they do not get to meet some of these top athletes in the early rounds of the Games. But for us to put them in top shape, we need to do more in terms of proper training.
“No one can convince me that our athletes are inferior to their contemporaries in other countries. If I can leave this system in Nigeria and go to Canada and be their first world champion and Olympics gold medalist in just six years and if Francis Obikwelu can leave this country in a couple of years and win silver medal at the Olympics for Portugal and so also is Gloria Alozie, then we can achieve a lot if necessary things were provided for these athletes to excel.”
Igali blames the Nigerian system for stifling the country’s athletes, saying, “we do not have the funding mechanism.”