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Nigeria’s athletics underdeveloped, says Onyali-Omagbemi

An Olympian, Mary Onyali-Omagbemi, says that no Nigerian has broken her 20 years record in 200m which spans from 1996 to date is a sign of athletics underdevelopment in Nigeria.

Onyali-Omagbemi won the women’s 200m at the 1996 International Association of Athletics Federations Championships on August 14 in Zurich, returning 20.07 secs.

She won the bronze medal in the 4×100 m relay at the 1992 Olympic Games and in the 200m at the 1996 Olympic Games. She also won the 1994 Commonwealth Games 100m title.

Onyali-Omagbemi made the assertion on the sidelines of the Heritage Bank-Lagos State Skoolimpics which began at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, on Wednesday

The 20 years record, however, remains unbroken by subsequent sprinters that have represented Nigeria in the Olympics and other competitions.

Onyali-Omagbemi said that the state of athletics in the country should be a cause for concern for stakeholders in the sports industry.

She said, “For the developmental side of me which I think is the best and is 100 per cent true, the record should have been broken.

“A record lasting 20 years and still counting is not in any way a form of development at all; someone should be encouraged to break it.

“The 100m record has been broken but the 200m is a monster. It is such a difficult sprint that requires endurance.

“Sprinters can get away with 100m without enduring but 200m is a different race where endurance is twice that of the 100m race.

“It is more difficult.

“No one is happy with the current state of athletics in the country, especially for us in the family of athletics. It has been headaches day and night.

“Athletics needs all the support it can get from the private sector because in the face of the country’s economic downturn, government alone cannot fund sports.

“What government should focus on now is to provide the enabling environment and infrastructure for the athletes to thrive and leave the financial part of it to the private sector.

“Like what the Heritage bank is doing now, developing the talents of youths which could also be a pilot scheme at addressing the problem of athletics.”

Onyali-Omagbemi said that the N10m endowments by the bank for a sprinter to possibly break the record should be an encouragement for anyone to attempt it.

She said, “Other ex-internationals and I are trying to put up a similar event to what the bank is doing to compliment the efforts of the Lagos State Government.

“The Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Bank, Ifie Sekibo, has put up a bait of N10m for anyone who will beat my records, this is an encouragement enough for anyone to take up the challenge.

“Although as tempting as the price may seem, hard work must come to play for such an individual. The person must have the 22.07 secs on his or her mind.”


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