One of Nigeria's foremost sprinters, Uchenna Emedolu, has declared that he won't be competing at the World Championships coming up in Berlin in August, 2009.
In this interview with NEXT's Yemi Olus at the KADA 2009 Games in Kaduna, he said: "For me I'm not going to represent Nigeria again. I'm done with that. I'm just going to run a couple of races in Europe for my club Trento Athletics Club in Italy, then I will quit.
"I have retired from representing Nigeria at the Olympics and World championships. But now I have good athletes that will be representing me."
Emedolu, who won the IAAF World Cup in 2002 in the 100 metres, says his decision stemmed from his experience at the Beijing Olympics.
He said: "We had a problem in the last Olympics in the baton exchange so all the blame was on me. They said I messed up Nigeria. I had two athletes that I trained. With me, we were three in that team.
How could I mess these boys up when I want them to excel? They've forgotten when I won the World Cup, how I ran. Till today they have not paid me my grant that they paid others. All these things are hanging. It's like they see me like a fool but whoever is holding my money, let them hold it."
Beijing Baton exchange
He says that the incident was not intentional and that it is not restricted to Nigerian athletes alone.
"This thing is just a mistake. Even the Americans dropped their baton. Sometimes it just happens. There was unity in the team, but every little thing threatened that unity. We need to pray so that we will be getting this thing (baton exchange) right.
Sometimes you get it right, sometimes you get it wrong. Not like when they crucified me when we got it wrong, forgetting all the things I did for the country(sic)," he said.
Managing junior athletes
Emedolu, who won a bronze medal with the 4x100m relay team in Athens, says his focus for now is to manage upcoming talents and train them. It was on this platform that he came as a coach with the Abia State contingent to the National Sports Festival.
He said: "I have my own athletes here because now I manage athletes. I train them and take them to Europe to compete. I came as a manager and coach with Abia State."
He says some of his athletes have done well in the festival.
Speaking about one of them, Ejike Ogonor, and other athletes he has trained, he said: "I believe he will rule Africa. He has the speed, he has the competence. This is his first competition. He got to the finals of the 100 and 200 metres. Just watch out for him by next year. That guy will be on top.
"When I saw him, I know that he will rule. He will do better than I did so I picked interest in him and started coaching him. This competition is just for sightseeing. In the finals, he placed fourth in the 200 metres.
"Last year, I coached the guy that won the Mobil track and field, Obinna Metu. It's been taking me a lot of money getting these guys together, encouraging them. It's not easy, that's what the federal government should do. I have about four athletes in the national team."
Emedolu commended the standard of the just-concluded sports festival as well as the calibre of athletes that participated in the games.
He said: "The standard is kind of high, since the professional athletes didn't run. It is okay. In the 400 and the 100 metres, the time they ran was encouraging, so the assessment of the athletes is good. The facilities are okay. This is the first modern track in Nigeria; it is helping them run fast. Generally, from what I have seen, the facilities are okay."
He doesn't mind that professional athletes like himself are not allowed to compete in the festival but says the major aim for the organisers is to develop the talents that have been discovered.
"It depends on what they are looking for. If after this festival, the athletes that won can be put in camp and then trained, then the purpose of the festival will be actualised. But if not, I don't think it is anything because after winning the festival, when they get to the national level, they will not even get to the finals or be able to qualify," he said.
He also advises: "Let them (athletes) work hard. I know some people are training to leave the country. Forget about those things. Just bear one thing in mind.
"What you are doing, you are doing it for your family. When your name goes up there, you carry the name of your father and your country."
Culled from NEXT/Yemi Olus