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October 17, 2017

NO SHORT-CUT TO SUCCESS


Nigeria was represented by seven athletes at the just concluded World Taekwondo Championships, which was held in Muju Korea all through this past week.

The athletes were Commonwealth Gold Medallists, Josephine Esuku [Female -46kg] and US-based Isah Abubakar Adamu [Male -58kg]; Current African Champion Uzoamaka Otuadinma [Female +73kg], 2015 African Silver Medallists Chinazum Nwosu and Edwin Samson, Representative to the All African Games, Paul Bright Kolade and an athlete who had previously made the national camp, Santos Akhilele.

All seven eventually lost to higher ranked opponents that had a wider array of techniques and tactics available to them. Edwin Samson lost in Round of 32 to Rio 2016 Olympic Gold Medallist, China’s Shuai Zhao. Chinazum Nwosu lost in Round of 16 to the number three seed, Russia’s Tatiana Kudashova. Uzoamaka Otuadinma lost to World Cup Gold Medallist, South Korea’s An Saebom. Abubakar Adamu lost to Moldova’s Stepan Dimitrov. Santos Akhilele lost Guatemela’s Andres Zelaya. Josephine Esuku lost in Round of 64 to Azerbaijan’s Safiye Polat.

In summary, the athletes did not win any medals nor would any realistic tactician have theoretically expected them to, given the current ranking of the athletes, non-existent exposure to international competitions since 2015 and lack of proper sustained training. However, they gained critical experience that could prove vital in the next three years.

There are three positives from their outing at the world championships.

One, all seven of the athletes showed a lot of heart and guts in the ring. Despite the competition rustiness, there were no jitters as they attacked intently with purpose and showed that they really wanted to win. This kind of attitude makes all the difference when combined with proper training and exposure.

Two, all of the athletes that met African opposition won these battles convincingly – African Champion Uzoamaka defeated Swaziland, while African Games Medallist Chinazum defeated Kenya and Cote D’Ivoire. These are important victories, given that the All African Games is just two years away.

Three, all of the seven athletes earned world ranking points that might just prove useful for favourable draws in subsequent international competitions.

With the right national training policies in place, these athletes can be used to inspire and transfer lessons learnt to the hundreds of athletes back home in Nigeria. This is extremely important as we do not need to re-invent the wheel. Using the best we have to catapult the upcoming generation ahead is an effective improvement method.

There is one important lesson to be learnt – there is no shortcut to success. No matter what sport it is, Nigeria will have to pay the relevant dues necessary to produce world champions.

First, finding the athletes with the right body type across the nation. Next, training these athletes with the right methodology so they develop good techniques, sound tactics and the proper mental and physical fitness. Next, exposing these athletes – local, national and international competitions, training workshops etc.

All this requires detailed planning, seamless organization, real investment, ruthless execution and transparent accountability. Unfortunately, we cannot shorten time as every stage is time consuming, not to mention the amount of funding and quality of resource persons needed. Whenever the country is ready to put the right things in place, only then will its race to consistently produce international medals begin.

Without delay, this means that we must develop and equip the coaches, sports admin, media, medical, sports administrators needed to do this work. As funding is the bedrock on which all this would stand firm, efforts must be made to woo long-term investors to support athletes’ development programs in exchange for specified benefits to their businesses or corporations.

Really, there is no shortcut to success. The sooner Nigeria Taekwondo rolls up its sleeves to get to work, the sooner we would begin our journey to join other African countries like Mali, Egypt, Niger Republic who have won gold medals at the World Taekwondo Championships. Moving forward, I am hopeful that Nigeria Taekwondo can get this right.

On another note, Nigeria Taekwondo athletes might not have won a medal at the world championships but I am excited that their stories were the dominant conversation within the Nigeria Taekwondo community all week, as they were supported and urged on. The debates become on how the athletes could become better, and the structures that were needed to make this happen.

Honestly, this is what the conversation should always be about – the athletes. This is what we should discuss about, write about and plan about as I honestly believe that the athletes should be at the center of everything that the Federation does, because a Federation does exist because the sport has athletes.

Well done to the National Taekwondo Team for putting up a brave fight at the world taekwondo championships.

The post NO SHORT-CUT TO SUCCESS appeared first on The Nation Nigeria.

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