Ex-Olympian and Quarter-miler, Enefiok Udo-Obong was at NEXT and spoke on many issues concerning the sports, his old teammates and so on.
On the reported arrest of Ojokolo in Italy for being in possession of drugs and drugs in sports
I would not like to issue damning verdicts because most of the information received are still cloudy.
Endurance Ojokolo’s case is very intriguing because when we get bad press for one of our sporting heroes we have to really dig down and find out what is happening. Is it true? Did she do what is being insinuated? I believe journalists should have found out the true circumstance.
Ojokolo’s case is just coming out in the press, but it has been on for close to a year and I believe we are not being the watchdogs that we (journalists) should be.
But we should concentrate on Ojokolo who has served the country for 15 years and is in this kind of trouble - are you saying that over the course of the 15 years, she did not get any kind of financial rewards for her efforts in winning all these medals for the country? If this is the case, then there is something wrong with our reward system.
On drugs in sports,
I wouldn’t want to pin it only on athletics, it is occurring in every sport where our heroes are wallowing in abject poverty. Most local athletes do not even know what performance enhancing drugs are.
Those based in Europe fall prey because of the pressure. I faced this kind of pressure and until I confronted my manager and told him that if he wants me on drugs to perform to the level he wants then he should go and purchase the drugs and administer them on me, which was when I had peace.
On talents at the National Sports Festival-KADA 2009
The festival was not without the usual problems - not keeping to time, poor scheduling, hitches from hotels, and access to the stadium even for athletes.
One of the major lapses especially for an athletic event was the non-availability of a warm up ground and in terms of hosting athletics, that is a criminal offence.
It was not all negative though; the facilities were good, world class supplied by Mondo so I would say that while we are moving ahead in one aspect, we are not progressing in some others. In the organisation, it was the same old people and we had more of the same.
That is what you get when you bring in new wine and put in an old bottle, there will be spillage.
In terms of talent discovery, there were many disqualifications because of ineligibility according to the new rules of the games which were not good for the competition but there was not really any stand out athlete at the games.
February is not really the time to run spectacular times, athletes usually peak in July and
August. There was really no new talent because we had seen most of them before at national trials. There were emerging talents but no smoking gun.
Personal experience with Festival
From the first festival I attended in 1996 in Benue to now, the biggest difference would be that there were more talents then than now.
This could have been caused by the frequency of the festival because that time, we waited for five years before the Benue games was held as the previous one was held in Bauchi in 1991.
It would be very difficult to come out every two years and discover new talents. Seun Ogunkoya was discovered then and went on to become like the best in the world, he even broke the world record but it was denied him but that is another story.
As a matter of fact, Ogunkoya went from the festival and made the Olympic team, nobody from this festival would be able to go straight into the national team. You could now say that we are a victim of our successes.
Seun Ogunkoya’s short career
Seun’s career was short for a lot of reasons but I wouldn’t want to put blame on any particular party because I was just privy to some of the things that affected him. His mother was his manager and did everything for him. When she died, Seun just lost it.
But we can still say that even though his career was short, it was very productive. There was the season that Seun beat Maurice Greene, then at his peak in four consecutive races. It was just unfortunate that his career ended even before it had started.
The reason could have been as a result of a combination of factors - the athlete discipline, management, opportunities. But I cannot pin it on one that is peculiar to Seun.
Sydney Olympics Goal medal
I did not go to Sydney to win any medal and that is the truth but it is a sad reflection on the national teams. We went there to have fun, enjoy the travel, and get some few dollars in allowance and to meet people because we knew before we got there that we were not going to win.
We were just going for the little perks not because we believe we can win especially for the Olympics and World Championships.
In other kinds of competitions, national pride comes in. When we are in Africa, we still believe we are the best so we still do well. The Olympics is a different ball game. You see teams that are well prepared.
I tell you this, when you get down at the airport and you enter the Games Village, you see the other countries well dressed, well kited, beautiful bags and they go to their camp which has been well prepared like a year before the games.
They get the better part of the Games Village near the cafeteria, bus-stop, medical facilities. But when they ask about the Nigerian camp, it is somewhere very far off and maybe cramped and definitely you know that we got the scraps because our administrators did not prepare.
Innocent Egbunike’s factor
It was coach Innocent Egbunike that made us believe that we could win a medal in Sydney. He came and showed us the records of their team’s times in 1984 when they won the Bronze and compared it to our times which were better.
He told us: “if our times could get us a Bronze then you guys should get something more” and we were infused with that confidence and we got a silver.
It would have been better if the Americans had been found guilty immediately afterwards, it would have been more coins in my pocket and others in the team.
The way forward for athletics
We need people who know the sport to administer the sport. The biggest problem that we have on the local scene is the lack of competitions. The athletes just train and train with no competition in sight but they just continue to train.
Ten years ago, by the end of March, we had already gone for three competitions but the Athletics Federation of Nigeria does not have a functional calendar.
The calendar that they produced does not have dates attached so basically there are no events that have been properly planned for.
I also do not believe that the money to organise local competitions is something the federation cannot source on their own. They simply do not know their jobs and are too selfish to be concerned.
Culled from NEXT/Jide Alaka and Yemi Olus