Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, says Nigeria has started building a new generation of athletes who will take the country to new heights.
Dare, who spoke on the sidelines of the Tokyo Olympics in Japan, canvassed for support for consistent training and development of the countryâ€™s athletes.
â€œNigeria should keep the plan that brought us here (Japan). Itâ€™s not just about medal winners but as many that meet the qualification standards in their chosen sports, experience matters at the Olympics,â€ Dare said.
â€œMost of the medal winners have been to two or more Olympics. I saw how lack of experience robbed two of our young and talented athletes of medals; Elizabeth Anyanacho in taekwando, Uche Eke in gymnastics and Esther Toko in rowing, who eventually secured a good Olympic classification.
â€œOur size (number of athletes at the Olympics) this time is tight and deliberately so. Without the team sport basketball in the male and female categories, our total athletes at the Tokyo Olympics could have been around 30.
â€œNigeria, perhaps, has one of the youngest crops of athletes at the Olympics. Out of Team Nigeria athletes, 39 of them have never been to the Olympics. They are debutants, but rough diamonds. About 20 of them are under 30. The building of the next generation of talented Nigerian athletes has just started. The focus should be on their efforts and commitment and not just on medals,â€ Dare added.
The minister added that sports needed a National Athletes Development Programme, as well as a Sports Development Fund urgently, which will be driven by the private sector.
â€œI will be more aggressive with engaging the private sector. We need our sports infrastructure activated and equipped. We need a cluster of multi-purpose sports centres or community sports centres to attract our young ones, like Rowe Park in Lagos.
â€œWe will tinker with a new National Sports Industry Policy by expanding the areas of athletesâ€™ grants and training, government funding and commitment to sporting infrastructure development. There a few fundamentals we have walked away from when it comes to sports administration. We will seek a return by Gods grace,â€ the Minister stated.