Nigeria’s Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare has heaped praises and commendation on the returnee athletes from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games for doing the nation proud at the summer championship.
While welcoming some of the athletes who returned to Nigeria via Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos early on Thursday from the ongoing Paralympics in Japan, the Minister said: “I’m proud of these Paralympians just the way I’m proud of all Nigerian athletes who wear Nigeria colours at international championships. I must confess, qualifying for the Olympics alone is a big deal and going there to win medals is a great honour to the country. That is the reason I am here to receive them personally as we received their abled counterparts few weeks ago.
“The performance of the athletes showed the resilience in them, not only the preparation the country gave them, they exhibited the discipline, sacrifice, consistency and training in them at the Games. What we only added was a bit of support by giving them the enabling environment to succeed. We supported them to travel around the world to compete and we have seen the result of that in the Paralympics.”
The Sports Minister said the federal government won’t rest on its oars to consolidate on the successes Nigeria recorded in some international meets in the last few week.
“In the past six weeks, we have seen Nigeria participated in three global competitions. From the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the World Athletics Championship in Nairobi, Kenya and the ongoing Paralympic Games in Japan. We have seen almost 17 to 18 medals in these tournaments. That shows that our sports in this country has hit a new trajectory, a trajectory that will see us producing the best talents in the world very soon.
“How do we sustain this? We have developed a model, that is public/private partnership. We have done the test run and we have seen this through the Adopt-A-Talent initiative where about 20 athletes got between 10,000 -20,000 USD for their preparation for the Olympics. We have seen teams getting support too.
“We are going to build on that. We will put these athletes on a definite programme until the next competitions, as we are going to have open trials in the next few days.
“Some of these athletes are growing old, we need new talents. In the next two weeks, we will start open trials for 10 different sports. Once we have these pools of talents, we will put them into more training through their federations. I am very sure that we can, through this way, build reservoir of talents for the nation ahead of the next Olympics, Commonwealth Games and other tournaments.
“Whether an athlete win medal or not at international competition, our policy is to celebrate all the athletes.
“We thank the Paralympians for winning medals for the country. This shows that there is ability in their disability. We celebrate them, we respect them and we like what they did for our country,” he said.