Lagos – Some stakeholders in athletics have praised President Goodluck Jonathan for the National honours awarded to the 4×400 metres Sydney Games gold medalists.
Even though it took 13 years in coming, the stakeholders hailed the gesture, saying they were happy with the government, saying: “it is better late than never’’.
Perhaps, the only regrets have been the absence of one of the quartet, Sunday Bada, a key member of the team, who died on Dec. 12, 2011 at the age of 42.
Bada had died after waiting in vain for the IOC decision years after the American team, which had earlier been disqualified for testing positive to banned substance.
The other members of the team are: Clement Chukwu, Jude Monye, Enefiok Udo-Obong, Nduka Awazie, and Fidelis Gadzama.
Tony Uroboh, a former President, Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) commended the government for the cash N5 million for athlete and N7 million for the coaches.
“This is a fantastic development; I say a resounding `hallelujah’ to this. An Olympic medal and recognition as far as I am concerned is better than African medal.
“The Federal Government has shown that it is not only football that can be appreciated. Track and Field is one of the difficult sports because it is majorly an individual sport.
“This will also encourage the upcoming athletes to want to do the country proud at international meets.
“It is a very good motivation and I hope the athletes will make use of the money well.
“The athletes, who won the awards are disciplined, at least I knew Enefiok Udo-Obong, he is a much disciplined athletes.
“Upcoming athletes should emulate this attitude of discipline,’’ Uroboh, who was a one-time National Athletics coach, said.
Henry Amike, the President of Nigerian Olympians Association (NOA), said: “as far as I am concerned it is a welcome development.
“I must appreciate the fact that the presidency was involved all through the struggle.
“This will give encouraging words and signals to the younger ones, that even after a long time they can be appreciated.
“The NSC and the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) should be applauded for making this a reality after 13 years.
“This would not have been possible without the NSC, NOC and NOA; young athletes should understand that hard work pays, there is a reward for whatever path we choose,’’ Amike said.
An athletics coach, Kola Adebayo, told NAN that “it is a good development that the athletes were finally rewarded.
He noted, however, that this could have been better, if the decision was taken three years ago, soon after the announcement was made by the IOC.
“It is important that the efforts of our heroes are recognised’’.
Duro Ikhazuagbe, a former Media Officer to AFN, said: “it is the biggest news coming for our sports heroes.
“It will go a long way to motivate other athletes who dream of representing the country.
“Although, Sunday Bada, is no longer here today, but I hope his family will truly appreciate what the government has done for them,’’ Ikhazuagbe said.
Kayode Thomas, the current AFN Media Officer, praised Jonathan’s effort in giving such cash rewards to the athletes and their coaches.
“This effort by the government is admirable as it will go a long way to spur our athletes to greater heights,’’ Thomas said.
A U.S.-based coach, Pat Itanyi, while praising the award by Jonathan said it was sad that some coaches, like Innocent Egbunike and Amelia Edet, who did the work on the team to have made it the podium in the first place were left out.
NAN reports that it was the decision by the IOC’s Executive Board to reallocate the medals after three years after they disqualified the U.S. team.
“I do not know how they came about names. I was there at the Games, then as an athlete and I know who did what,’’ Itanyi said.
The Americans were disqualified because, a member of the U.S. team, late Antonio Pettigrew, had confessed using banned performance-enhancing drugs at the time.
With Nigeria elevated to the top position, Jamaica and Bahamas were promoted to silver and bronze medals, respectively.
“Pettigrew was disqualified in August 2008, but the Executive Board delayed a decision on reallocation until it had received information stemming from investigations into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) sports-doping scandal,’’ said a statement from the IOC.
Two years after the team returned the medals to the IOC, Pettigrew was found dead in the back seat of his locked car in Chatham County, North Carolina. An evidence of sleeping pills was found by police.
However, an autopsy report later said he had committed suicide by overdosing on a medication containing diphenhydramine.