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Why we did so well at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games – Dalung

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Solomon Dalung, Nigerian sports minister

The XXI edition of the Commonwealth Games was held in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, from April 4 – 15, 2018. It is only expedient for us as a Ministry to report back to millions of sports loving Nigerians how we fared at the games.Nigeria again made history by coming second in Africa on the medals table after South Africa and ninth overall out of 53 Commonwealth countries that participated.

This achievement could only be attributed to the unflinching support of President Muhammadu Buhari and the hard work and patriotism of many of the athletes. I therefore use this opportunity to express my profound appreciation to Mr. President and all Nigerians, athletes, coaches, the indefatigable press, Ministry Officials and other stakeholders for their immense contributions towards this success. Together we can truly achieve greatness.

Our preparation for the 21st Commonwealth Games started on the 1st of December, 2017. Going by the review of our sports of higher comparative advantage, Nigeria entered for 10 Sports out of the 19 Sports selected by the Commonwealth Games Federation for the 2018 edition. To ensure effective preparations for the 21st Commonwealth Games, four (4) cities were identified as suitable campsites based on availability of standard training facilities and accommodation for the athletes and officials. The locations were Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Yenagoa with the sports were distributed as follows:

(i.) Abuja hosted weightlifting and Gymnastics

(ii.) Lagos was the base for Basketball, Boxing, Table Tennis, Para Table Tennis and Para Powerlifting.

(iii.) Port Harcourt was campsite for Athletics, Para Athletics and Wrestling for men; while

(iiii.) Yenagoa hosted for female wrestlers.

In line with the strategic plans for the 21st Commonwealth Games, National Selection Trials in the Ten (10) Sports selected for participation were  held in Lagos and Abuja prior to the invitation of the athletes to the Local Camps by their different federations. At the end of the exercise, a total of 182 athletes, comprising 96 male and 86 female were selected for the preliminary camping programme. The Athletes had the official complements of 182 coaches and other officials.

According to our earlier plans, athletes were meant to travel for foreign training tour as the last phase of camping. However, arising from an extensive review of preparations for the Games by the top management, professionals of the Ministry,  the NOC, President and Secretaries of the Federations, the consensus position was that the athletes should continue with their camping in Nigeria. The decision took into consideration the imperative needs for training partners and access to good facilities under their control. Overall the athletes underwent about 110 days of training in accordance with the respective technical programmes drawn up by their Federations and supervised by the Ministry.

In the end, Nigeria presented 90 athletes as Team Nigeria for the Games. To guarantee the safety of athletes, officials and coaches, the contingent was provided with adequate insurance cover against any unforeseen accident(s) that may occur during the Games.

Esteemed members of the media profession, a break down revealed the participation of Team Nigeria in the under listed events:

(i.) In Athletics, Nigeria participated in the 100m (men and women), 200m (men and women), 400m (men and women). 800m (men), 110m hurdles (men and women), 400m hurdles (women), High Jump (men and women), Long Jump (men and women) Triple Jump (men) Shot put (men), Javelin (women), 20km Race Walk (women), 4x100m Relay (men and women) and 4x400m Relay (men and women).

(ii.) Nigeria also registered 12 players for the men’s basketball event.

(iii.) In boxing, Nigeria took part in the 56kg, 60kg, 69kg and 81kg for men while in the women category, boxers were registered for the 51kg, 60kg, 69kg and 75kg category.

(iiii.) Nigeria made her debut in gymnastics with 1 athlete each registered for the Artistic and Rhythmic events.

(v.) We also participated in Para Athletics as we registered for 100m race- T47 (men) and Javelin- F46 (women).

(vi.) In Powerlifting, the ministry of Youth and Sports registered athletes in the lightweight divisions including 72kg for men and 61kg for women and the Heavyweight category (over 72kg for men and over 61kg for women).

(vii.) Athletes were also entered for in the para-table tennis event for men and women (TT6-10 singles) as well as singles, doubles and team events in Tables Tennis.

(viii.) Weightlifting had representatives in the 62kg and 85kg for men while in the women’s category, we participated in the 48kg and 53kg categories.

(ix.) For our wrestling team, they participated in the 57kg, 65kg, 74kg, 86kg, 97kg and 125kg freestyle events for men while the women took part in the 48kg, 53kg, 58kg, 63kg, 69kg and 75kg.

For the avoidance of doubt, on the basis of the ninety (90) athletes Team Size Calculator allowed Nigeria, the country was entitled to only forty-three (43) Team Officials comprising the Chef de Mission, General Team Managers (2), Medical Personnel (8), Coaches (26), Press Attaché (1), Loaders (2) and Team Administrators (3).

KEEPING A CLEAN SHEET (OUR ANTI-DOPING OUTLOOK)

In line with guidelines set forth in the WADA Code, the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADC) undertook doping control activities with the aim of ensuring that only clean athletes represented the country at the Commonwealth Games. Accordingly, the Agency conducted one hundred (100) in-competition and out-of-competition urine tests for athletes in the ten (10) participating sports.

Furthermore, a total of eighteen (18) Nigerian athletes were tested for doping by the Games Anti-doping Committee during the Games and they all came out clean. To this I commend the athletes and all technical officials for maintaining discipline and keeping Nigeria’s name clean.

A total of eight medical personnel consisting of 4 medical officers, three physiotherapists, and one nurse provided medical coverage to the Team during the Games.

TEAM NIGERIA’S PERFORMANCE:

At the end of the Competition, Team Nigeria finished in 9th position on the overall medals table with a total of 9 Gold, 9 Silver and 6 Bronze Medals which erupted in reactions after I went on record to say we did better than Glasgow 2014.

It is to be noted that Nigeria participated with 90 athletes in 10 Sports and won a total of 9 Gold, 9 Silver and 6 Bronze placing the country in 9th position on the final medal table. In 2014 we went to Glasgow with 116 athletes in 7 individual sports while in 2018, 90 athletes were registered including 12 Athletes for the Basketball team event.

PERFORMANCE REPORT:

Although Nigeria finished 9th on the overall medals table, the country was the 2nd best African country at the competition finishing only behind South Africa.

PERFORMANCE BY SPORTS

Analysis of the performance of the Team Nigeria by sporting events reveals as follows:

(i.) Athletics:

37 athletes won 1 gold medal, 2 silver and 1 bronze medal totaling 4 medals which is a performance ratio of 11%

(ii.) Boxing

Participated with 8 athletes and won 2 bronze medals with a performance ratio of 25%.

(iii.) Gymnastics

Nigeria made her debut at the competition with just 2 athletes but we were unable to finish on the podium.

(iiii.) Para Athletics

Participated with 2 athletes and won 1 gold medal with a performance ratio of 50%.

(v.) Para Table Tennis

We registered 2 athletes and won a silver which equated equated 50% output.

(vi.) Powerlifting

The powerlifting team made up of 6 athletes (3 men and 3 women) posted a 100% performance with 4 gold medals and 2 silver medals at the end of their events.

(vii.) Table Tennis

A Total of 5 athletes were registered as earlier stated. 2 silver medals were won which is a winning ratio of 40%.

(viii.) Weightlifting

The ratio of the team’s performance was 0% as all the 4 athletes registered for the games could not win a medal.

(ix.) Wrestling

With 12 athletes registered for the competition, they were able to win 8 medals (3 gold, 2 silver and 3 bronze medals). This amounted to 67% performance ratio from the wrestlers.

WINNING BONUSES

In accordance with the rewards system put in placed by the Ministry, athletes and coaches were rewarded with cash bonuses for winning medals for the country.

I am happy to report that because of the transparent system we adopted for athletes’ welfare, we did not encounter the usual challenges associated with such Games arising from nonpayment of allowances.

In accordance with the rewards system proposed by Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, athletes and coaches were rewarded with cash bonuses for winning medals for the country. The ceremony which was carried out on two occasions was chaired by the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Barr, Solomon Dalung who presented $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000 to athletes who won Gold, Silver and Bronze medals respectively. Coaches were also rewarded in line with the highest category of medals won by their respective athletes. In total, $182,000 was paid to medal winning athletes and their coaches.

For us, Gold Coast was on the whole successful. Despite pockets of condemnations and criticisms from some quarters, we are satisfied with what we achieved, although the results could have been better. Nonetheless, we can never overrule some challenges in Games like this.

Most of the athletes featured at the games were young athletes who were making their debut at such stage for the first time. If we can harness their talents based on their performances, there is brighter hope for Team Nigeria at the next Olympics. For instance, in weightlifting, out of the 4 athletes (2 men and 2 women) Nigeria entered for in the games, none had competed at that stage before. Uweh Monica, Fatima Yakubu, Michael Anyalewechi and Agboro Favor were all products of the 2017 Africa Junior and Youth Championship in Uganda.

In combat sports, the employment of manual approach to scoring and rating inevitably brought much human errors and subjectivity resulting to contestable outcomes. It is hoped that in no distant future electronic scoring method will be introduced to reduce the human errors.

NEXT STEPS

Talent alone is not enough to guarantee podium performance. The knowledge, expertise, necessary for high level performance is not domiciled in one group alone but multifaceted and needs to be integrated. There is therefore need for a deep involvement of sports science, without which our podium level performance may remain minimal.

We will therefore pursue programmes and policies that will facilitate this. Apart from on-the-go seminars, courses, workshops, conferences, etc, which we will encourage the National Sports Institute to vigorously organize, we will also explore the possibility of partnerships with our universities to incorporate specialized sports courses into their curriculum.

Finally, Team Nigeria needs to adopt the global standard of all athletes (local and foreign) converging at a particular location before major Games to tidy everything including medical screening.  This will help to minimize unnecessary medical liabilities.