Record-breaker Tobi Amusan earns sports minister’s praise

… Sunday Dare says reform of sports sector non-negotiable

By Alexander Johnson Adejoh

Nigeria’s Youth and Sports Development Minister Sunday Dare has congratulated sprint hurdler, Tobi Amusan, on her historic feat at the Weltklasse Diamond League meeting in Zurich last Thursday where Amusan ran to a blistering 12.42 seconds to break Glory Alozie’s 21-year-old 100m hurdles African record (12.44s).

Amusan, became the first Nigerian, man or woman, in the Diamond League era to be crowned Diamond League champion, and Dare says the 24-year-old’s feat is the icing on the cake of what has been an eventful and successful  year for Nigeria despite the limitations posed by the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Congratulations Tobi on your win at the Diamond League final. This is a perfect representative of what has been a roller coaster year for Nigerian athletes and the Federal Government is thrilled that our young ones are redefining who we really are at the global stage,’ said Dare.

‘The successes we have achieved this year are a combination of the doggedness and never say die spirit of Nigerian athletes as well as the effort we have put in as a ministry to redefine sports and its administration.

‘We came in when we were at our lowest in terms of both the administration of sports and welfare of our athletes. For 13 years we were only able to win one medal at the Olympics and qualified five athletes for the final in two Olympics combined (2012 and 2016). In 2021, we achieved our best position since 2008, winning two medals and getting as many as five individual athletes in the final. This is the new beginning we craved for and which we will surely build on.

‘We are happy our efforts at having an Athletics Federation of Nigeria free of crisis and in-fighting amongst board members have not only yielded the desired result in terms of the successful election of a new board recognised by World Athletics but also by our wonderful U-20 athletes achieving unprecedented feats at the World Athletics U-20 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya. This is a signal our future is indeed bright,’.

Nigeria won an unprecedented seven medals at the U-20 Worlds made up of an equally unprecedented four gold medals, as well as three bronze medals.

Like Amusan, the Nigerian men’s basketball team, D’ Tigers, also achieved the unprecedented feat of becoming the first African nation to beat the United States.

‘The team has shown what they are capable of doing on a good day and we are determined to make sure Nigeria will be counted among the heavyweights of world basketball,’ promised the Sports Minister.

Dare is confident Sports will move to a different and higher level by the time the Sports Industry Policy becomes operational.

‘We are happy we have been able to, through Mr President, reclassify sports from recreation to business and we are taking it several steps up,’ Dare said.

The Sports Minister says he and his team have been encouraged by the phenomenal feats Nigerian athletes have achieved this year alone.

‘Within a space of two months we have won 19 global medals with eight of them gold from the Olympics to the World Athletics U-20 Championships and the Paralympics. Enoch Adegoke and Grace Nwokocha have proved you can live and train in Nigeria to not only qualify to run at the Olympics but to actually make indelible marks.

‘Adegoke, a home boy, became the first Nigerian in 25 years to qualify for the 100m final. Tobi has now put the icing on the cake. For the sake of these athletes and for the sake of the millions of Nigerians that will be positively engaged, we are determined to forge ahead with our plans to develop sports in all its ramifications. And we have a supportive President Muhammadu Buhari to lean on to actualise our dream of turning sports into business, into a large employer of labour.’ He added.