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Team Nigeria jets out for U.S. relays, Dare thanks Buhari

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Youth and Sports Development Minister, Sunday Dare. Photo; TWITTER/SUNDAYDARESD


• Akanji explains why ministry staff made advance team
• Ogunlewe, Alaba, others still in Nigeria

A contingent of Team Nigeria athletes and officials left Lagos for the United States of America yesterday ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Relays qualifying events billed to start on May 9.

Team Nigeria elected to participate in the U.S relays after missing the World Athletics Relays qualifiers in Poland last weekend due to visa issues. The Guardian learnt yesterday that 16 athletes, led by two officials of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Maria Wophil and Gabriel Okon, departed Abuja for Lagos, where they connected a flight for the U.S. yesterday evening. Some other group of athletes, including sprinter Seye Ogunlewe and Alaba Akintola, who emerged as one of the biggest stars at Edo 2020 National Sports Festival, could not travel with the team yesterday due to delay in securing their visas.

They are expected to jet out today for the relays scheduled in Texas. Nigerian athletes are also expected to compete in another relay event in Florida. There were initial doubts on Wednesday about the possibility of the team making the U.S. trip.

The Guardian also learnt that some officials of the Sports Ministry had led Team Nigeria’s advance party three days ago to the U.S. Speaking with The Guardian yesterday, Senior Special Assistant to the Sports Minister on Media, John Joshua Akanji, said the advanced team went ahead to prepare the ground for the arrival of the athletes and their coaches.

“There is nothing wrong in the ministry staff traveling ahead to prepare the ground for our athletes and their coaches. That is the practice all over the world,” Akanji stated.

Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, confirmed the team’s departure yesterday in a tweet. He said: “Thursday, Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport Abuja, I saw off 16 athletes and technical hands to Texas, USA, for three weeks of camping and competitions ahead of the Olympics. We thank President Buhari, who through the Finance Ministry, has provided adequate funds.”

Nigeria has not won a track and field medal at the Olympics for 13 years. Nigeria last won a track and field medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 when Blessing Okagbare picked a bronze in the women’s long jump before the quartet of Gloria Kemasuode, Halimat Ismaila, Franca Idoko and Damola Osayomi grabbed another bronze in the women’s 4x100m event

he sports minister stated recently that his administration was doing everything possible to end the medals drought at the Tokyo Olympics.

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