National Youth Games 2013: NSC discovers 370 Special talents

The First National Youth Games ended at the weekend with over 370 special talents discovered, according o the Minister of Sports and Chairman of the National Sports Commission, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi.National-Youth-Games

A very excited Abdullahi said he was very pleased with the outcome of the games, explaining that he was impressed with the large turn out of participants and even more so with the enthusiasm and skills of the young athletes.

According to Abdullahi, the first youth games achieved its primary objective, which is the early discovery and identification of talents.

“We are very happy with the outcome of the games, with the turnout of athletes, their enthusiasm and skills. With what I saw during the games, I am confident that we have a great future in sports.

“I want assure all the athletes that they are all winners. And for the special talents, we will ensure that they are part of our high performance system, which we have just established,” Abdullahi stated.

The 370 special talents were discovered in 14 sports: football, boxing, basketball, badminton, handball, power lifting, tennis, track and field and squash. Others are weightlifting, wrestling, taekwondo, volleyball and table tennis.

Two thousand nine hundred and seventeen athletes from thirty-one states and the FCT participated in the games that held between December 6 and December 15. Lagos, Ekiti, Jigawa, Zamfara and Edo states were absent.

Notable highpoint of the games was the disqualification of 667 athletes before the start of events for being over the minimum age of 17. 574 disqualified athletes were male, while 93 were female. Benue, Abia and Delta had the highest number of disqualified athletes with 48, 46 and 45 respectively, while Kebbi (seven), Kogi (eight), Kwara (eight), Ebonyi (five), Sokoto (nine) and Kaduna (ten) had the lowest number of disqualified athletes.

Another notable highpoint of the games was the defeat of Nigeria’s Under-18 champion, Sarah Adegoke from Oyo state, in two straight sets of 6-2, 7-5 by Lizzy Pam, a secondary school student based in England who represented Plateau in the female singles event.

Speaking later in an interview, Pam said she was inspired to victory in the final match by the American tennis sisters, Venus and Serena Williams.

Pam, a 15-year-old student of Culford Secondary School, Bury Saint Edmund in England, said the two players’ performance inspired her whenever she played a match. She said her target was to become a professional tennis player like Serena Williams or Victoria Azarenka of Belarus.

Pam’s discovery and her innovative strength might have solved by half the hunt for female tennis athletes who could fly Nigeria’s flag at future international competitions, especially the 2014 Youth Olympics.
Her discovery is similar to that of 13 year-old Nkiruka Iroha who represented Cross River in the girls’ 800 metres final. Iroha did not win the event but it was worthy to note that she placed second; she was able to achieve this feat after she broke her personal best record by six seconds.

A sports consultant to the Cross River state government, Dr. Bruce Ijirgho said he discovered Iroha at the age of nine. He said that with little effort, Iroha could surpass the achievement of Nigerian athletes like Mary Onyali-Omagbemi and current Africa sprint queen, Blessing Okagbare.

This is an indication that the Under-17 NYG has become a veritable platform for the discovery of budding talents. No wonder the sports Minister, stated during the opening and closing ceremonies of the games that states have crucial roles to play in the early discovery of talents.

This, according to him, is what separates advanced countries in sports from the developing ones. Abdullahi said that discovered athletes from the games would be part of the High Performance Centre, which is expected to take-off in January 2014 with two Directors from the United States already employed to man the place.