By Dorcas Jonah
Almost three head ahead of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the Minister of Youths and Sports, Solomon Dalung has directed that preparations for the games must begin soon.
Dalung gave the directive to the National Sports Federations at the closing ceremony of the 2017 National Karate Open Championship in Abuja.
He said that if the sports federations hoped to win laurels at the 2020 Olympics then preparatons must begin early.
Represented by Tayo Oreweme, the Director of the Sports Ministry’s Federation and Elite Athletes Department (FEAD), the minister noted that the Tokyo Games would be karate’s first Olympic outing.
“This will be the first time karate will feature at the Games, hence the need to commence preparations and be part of that history,’’ he said.
Dalung said it was important that preparation should commence immediately in view of the need for the Karate Federation of Nigeria to have its athletes qualify for the Games.
“I hope that the federation’s technical team has been able to identify high-profile athletes from this championship who will be nurtured to stardom to win medals at the Olympics.
“To qualify for the Olympics, all hands must be on deck.
“I want to encourage the federation to spread its tentacles, to get to the corporate and private organisations, as well as the World Karate Federation, for financial and technical support which will ensure successful outings at the qualifying competitions,” he said.
Dalung also called on the national federations to concentrate more on constant organisation of zonal and national competitions for all age categories.
“This is what will help you to identify and nurture potential athletes to represent Nigeria at international competitions,’’ the minister said.
Earlier, President of the federation, Silas Agara, had said karate was becoming a global sport capable of building bridges of love, friendship and cooperation among nations.
“It is for this reason that its inclusion in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games has come to us as a positive development.
“It is my hope and expectation that all stakeholders, athletes, coaches, referees, administrators and sponsors will strive to make our collective dream come true in our determination to place our country on the map of world recognition.
“I urge all participants in the national championship to commit themselves to the sport with all sense of patriotism, having in mind that the essence of participating in competitions is not only the euphoria of winning.
“Have it in mind that there is more fulfillment in the coming together to enhance national integration,’’ he said.
Agara restated the federation’s resolve to open up opportunities for all athletes, regardless of gender, class or age, in order to enable sportsmen and women realise their aspirations.
He promised to ensure equal development and promotion of karate in the 36 states of the federation and the FCT through sustained courses, seminars, competitions and provision of access to facilities.
Agara said no stone would be left unturned as the federation sets out to identify athletes who possess the needed potential for the 2020 Olympics.
NAN reports that FCT and Lagos won gold in the kata female and male team events respectively.