The Minister of Youths and Sports, Mr Solomon Dalung, has attributed Nigeria’s poor performances in sports to aging professional athletes.
Dalung said this on Tuesday in Abuja while receiving Nigeria gymnasts that participated at the 2017 Regional African Gymnastics Championship in South Africa.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the 11 gymnasts comprises a boy and 10 girls, particularly a five-year old.
Team Nigeria won two gold medals and nine bronze at levels 4-9 of the championship.
Dalung thanked Coach Anthony Asuquo for his determination in grassroots sports development.
“I thank the coach for his determination in grassroots sports development. I discover that we have depleted the profile of our national athletes.
“This has led us to recycle our professional athletes which has resulted to our poor podium performances.
“When I came on board, I came up with a policy of massive grassroots sports development. I have not pretended over this, it will remain the focus and policy in the ministry.
“We must encourage young athletes; we must discover young athletes, develop them so that they can realise their potential.
“I think the gymnastic federation, with others, have keyed into this policy.
“We must practically demonstrate this, and in demonstrating this, we must get younger people involved and much younger ages should be attracted into sports.
“They should be encouraged and supported so that they can develop,’’ he said.
Dalung, who was very impressed with the performance of the five-year old gymnast, Lara Anot who won her first bronze medal, said more younger gymnasts should be trained.
“If we can get more five-year old gymnasts to win medals for the country, in the next five years, Nigeria will have athletes that will dominate the gymnastics space for the next 10 to 15 years before retiring.
“Therefore, I congratulate our great gymnasts for making us proud,’’ he said.
Dalung directed the acting permanent secretary of the ministry to ensure that the financial assistance due to the team was released.
Earlier, Asuquo thanked the Minister and the President of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) Habu Gumel, for their support for the championship.
He expressed happiness over the results recorded so far in the sport.
According to him, “we competed with over 500 gymnasts and won two gold and nine bronze medals.
“We trained tirelessly for this championship, an average of four hours a day in Nigeria.
“I promised the minister that I will do my best to ensure that gymnastics is well known in Nigeria and I thank God for this achievement.
“ I also thank the NOC president for supporting the team with flight tickets for the championship’’.
Asuquo thanked parents who assisted the team and promised to put in his best to get the gymnasts ready for the country.