Over 30 junior athletes would be called to camp from the AFN All Comers, U18 and U20 Trials that ended at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna, the Athletics Federation of Nigeria Technical Director, Samuel Onikeku, has said.
Onikeku, an officer and Sports Secretary of Nigerian Customs Service, told sports writers in Kaduna that the performances recorded were laudable.
“We are happy as a federation for bringing the All Comers, U18 and U20 Trials competitions to Kaduna to represent the Northwest. It’s what the AFN president and board promised to do. We are happy that a national record is set. We have an U18 girl setting a national record and we are happy that 11 personal best times were set which is good for Nigeria.
“We are going to pick over 30 athletes from this competition for camping for the African U18 and U20 championships in Lusaka, Zambia. The AFN technical committee will meet to pick the team for the continental championship and present to the AFN board for approval and they would be called to camp in Abuja. From the camp, the team would depart for Lusaka, Zambia. We are happy to have good performances in Kaduna, the Ahmadu Bello Stadium track is one of the fastest tracks in the country and the whether is always competition friendly. So, another junior competition will be coming to Kaduna very soon,” he said.
Speaking in the same vein, Secretary General, Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Mrs. Rita Mosindi, commended the performances of the junior athletes, noting that Nigerian 100m hurdles world record holder, Tobi Amusan, started same way when she attended the 2011 World Youth Championship in Athletics in Lille, France.
She however, called for sponsors to support AFN programmes, while urging athletics coaches and states associations to comb the grassroots for young talents.
“Some states are not here for the All Comers, U18 and U20 selection trials for the African U18 and U20 Championship in Lusaka, Zambia because they don’t have grassroots programme. We registered over 700 athletes which is good for us. You cannot do without the grassroots because that is where we get young talents to replace the ageing stars.
“We are calling on sponsors to come in and help sponsor our programmes. We thank Premium Trust Bank for their support but we want more sponsors because we have lots of competitions for the year. We want to combine education and sports by engaging our youth from young age. We are looking at U13, U20, we are getting support from World Athletics to carry out grassroots programmes.
“I took Tobi Amusan to the 2011 World Youth Championship in Athletics in Lille, France, 11 years later she broke the world record. We have so many talents but we don’t know how to harness them. The timings from our athletes here are very good. This is beginning of the season, the first event of the year and this is World Athletics Championship year, hopefully we would get more good performances as the season progresses,” she added.