By Emmanuel Afonne
A board member of the Nigeria Taekwondo Federation (NTF) Chika Chukwumerije said on Thursday that early preparation would help the country qualify and win medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Chukwumerije told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that preparation should have started for Tokyo 2020 three years ago to ensure adequate preparation especially for taekwondo athletes.
“We should have started three years ago for Tokyo; if we are starting now, we are late.
“When board members are not meeting and nobody knows what is going on, you can’t say there is a federation, but we have the best composition of board members.
“The federation went for Rio Olympics qualifiers and the board members were only informed through email; we are not involved at all in what happened.
“The board members didn’t know how and when the list of technical crew members that led the team to the qualifiers was changed.
“They went and didn’t qualify for the Rio Olympics and we had no official notification; the board members didn’t even know that we didn’t qualify,’’ Chukwumerije said.
He noted that individual board members were already working to ensure taekwondo developed beyond its current level in the country.
The 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze regretted that Nigeria had yet to win another Olympics medal after 2008 bronze.
He noted that Niger Republic and Cote d’Ivoire have overtaken Nigeria following their athletes exploits at the just concluded Rio Olympics.
Nigerien athlete won silver, while Ivorian won gold in the men’s senior category.
“The Nigerien that won taekwondo Silver at the Rio Olympics attended the Chika Chukwumerije Sports Foundation (CCSF) programme last year in Abuja.
“For the Ivorian that won gold, he has a local coach, not a foreigner; if a board as good as ours is in place and yet we allow individual sentiment to take over collective wisdom, then we are in trouble,’’ he added.
Chukwumerije, however, expressed the optimism that the country would qualify and excel at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics if the federation get its acts right.
He said: “taekwondo always do well but it’s going to get tough if we don’t get our acts right.
“When you have countries that have won Olympic medal, it goes a long way to inspire the athletes in those countries.
“We need to respond and we need to respond fast. I don’t think qualifying for Tokyo will be difficult, from my point of view because we have good coaches but the problem will be administrative.
Chukwumerije noted that it would be disastrous for the country’s taekwondo development if the country fail again to qualify for the next Olympics.
“We have already missed this one and it won’t be good to fail again.
NAN recalls that Team Nigeria won only one bronze medal in football at the just concluded Rio Olympics.
Team Nigeria did not feature in taekwondo event after its athletes failed to qualify for the Games.