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Okagbare: Sometimes I feel like running for another country

Okagbare: Sometimes I feel like running for another country
September 16
12:56 2016

Blessing Okagbare, track and field athlete, says her disappointment with sports administration in Nigeria sometimes tempts her to consider naturalising.

However, the 2008 Olympics women’s long jump silver medalist says she will continue sticking with Nigeria because athletics is her “career and passion”.

Speaking with Punch, Okagbare said the Rio 2016 Olympics, her third, did not feel like an Olympics at all not because the track and field team did not win any medal, but because the athletes lacked “quality support and encouragement”.

“[Rio 2016] didn’t feel like an Olympic for me but not because I didn’t win a medal. This is my third Olympics and I have been to Olympics that everything was so cheerful and the athletes were very happy,” she said.


“But for this Rio, I don’t know about other people in Team Nigeria as I’m speaking for myself, the morale was just low. Some of the girls come to me and we talk. Some times when they say these things (about how bad they feel), I just feel like these people feel the same way I feel. Everything about Rio was just low. This is the worst Olympics we’ve had.

“Prior to coming here was bad, I don’t understand what they wanted us to do in Rio. At times you go to other countries, mix with the athletes and you see a people getting quality support. But it’s not so with the Nigerian contingent. It comes to a point where you just try to do everything for the sake of your passion as well as for your fans.”

Okagbare was also self-critical of her performance at the games, where she, against all expectations, failed to make it to the final of the 100m sprint event much less win a medal.


“I was ready and I felt like I was in the best shape of my life coming here,” she said.

“It still surprises me [how things turned out]. I posted something on Facebook that there are certain things that don’t make sense; there are things that you just don’t understand.

“Like this competition, I put in my commitment despite having good reasons to stay away. I had some injuries but I worked so hard to come in here (Rio), and when the competition started it was just different; it was just like I wasn’t in it.”

On the athletes’ feelings after leaving Rio and the temptation of running for another country, she said: “I went to Beijing when I was 19. I was so young and naive. Beijing was one of the best Olympics for us; we had entitlements, encouragement and all. They supported us and we were quite encouraged.


“But in Rio, it was like all they just wanted was for you to show your face and leave. I don’t know but it was as if they didn’t want us to come here. Last time I heard the minister say a gold medal winner would get $2000 and I asked ‘is that what a gold medal is worth?’ And before I knew, it was actually in the media.

“You don’t bring that kind of stuff to athletes in the name of encouragement because we know what other athletes from other countries get. It’s been a problem and every year, I wish things would be different.

“At times it would be like should I move to another country? But you may understand why I refused to change. It’s my career and my passion so I enjoy it and that is what drives me. And that’s why I am still on the track and for Nigeria.”

Okagbare’s comments mirror that of Samson Siasia, coach of the Dream Team VI, who returned from the Olympics to say he was done working for Nigeria because it “didn’t make sense” to continue.


“My next step is that I am done with Nigeria for now,” he had said.

“You can’t keep going to a place where they don’t appreciate you. It does not worth it. Sometimes it is not about the money but the approach.


“They seem not to appreciate the sacrifices. I know how much I have sacrificed since the team began camping two years ago. How can you keep going to people who don’t appreciate you?

“It does not make sense, so I am done for now. I have to go somewhere else where they will appreciate what I have done and what I can do and pay me the respect that I deserve.”



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