From Tokyo Olympics to renewed grassroots voyage
It was a moment to explore for Nigerian Olympics medalist, Engr. Chika Chukwumerije, who made out time and visited various cities in Southeast including Enugu, Owerri Imo state capital and Awka Anambra state capital, a movement that took him a whole week, starting from a previous weekend of being around the coal city for a Taekwondo Championship.
The bold and stressful movement deployed by the three-time Olympian ended one week after despite passing through months of having to get latest Olympian, Elizabeth Anyanacho, ready for 2020 Olympics.
According to the former technical director of the Nigeria Taekwondo Federation (NTF) who was first in Enugu for a championship on Saturday after he left his base in Abuja on Friday August 20, 2021, his visits to these places have opened his eyes to various talents that abound everywhere he went. Lest, anyone had forgotten, grassroots development is exactly the heartbeat of Chika anytime, anyway. The current caretaker member of NTF always find pleasure in putting smiles on the faces of the people, especially the young ones.
“We must ‘stop pretending to invest’ in our future and ‘start investing’ in our future. Raising quality athletes take time, effort and resources; and must not have a price tag to it.
“In whatever age, century and time we see and embrace this, that is when our journey to become a great sporting nation will begin,” Chukwumerije said shortly after his stay in Enugu.
Olympians’ collabo, worthy home coming
In Owerri, Chika’s first pot of call was at his alma mater, the prestigious Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO). Chukwumerije, had graduated with a B.Eng Mechanical from FUTO in 2005.
His major reason for storming the school was to thank its management for encouraging and supporting the academic and sporting aspiration of Elizabeth who resumed school after staying away to prepare and represent her fatherland at the just concluded Olympics in Tokyo.
Elizabeth, who is currently a 400-level student of Statistics of the University, represented Nigeria at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in the Taekwondo female -67kg category.
In doing so, Elizabeth became the first woman in 16 years to represent Nigeria at the Olympics in the Taekwondo event: and the second woman ever in the nation’s history.
Still within FUTO premises, Chika’s taekwondo message of looking ahead with total support for sports sensation, Anyanacho, and other Nigerian athletes didn’t change.
He said, “…Like this, we have to give support to Lizzy and all others who aim to be at Paris 2021 Olympics.
“Yes, support for our athletes is not only finances and training. It is every part of their lives that can have a psychological impact on their performance in the ring – school, work, family, personal life etc.
“This visit is to remind Lizzy that we will continue to support her, as long as she continues to work hard and stay focused. It is also to appreciate an institution that has supported extra curricular activities of its students.
“True, FUTO is the only Institution in Nigeria that can boast of having two Taekwondo Olympians and one Olympic medalists.
“So yes, I am happy to step back into an institution I graduated from 16 years ago, and thank them for being as supportive now as they were then. Hopefully, the courtesy visit can bolster the confidence of Lizzy, inspire students of the University, and promote the Olympic sport of Taekwondo.”
The school management led by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC), Prof. Emeka Emmanuel Oguzie, who represented the Vice Chancellor Prof. Nnenna Oti – the first ever female Vice Chancellor in FUTO’s 41 year history, warmly received Chika and Elizabeth, accompanied by the Commissioner of Sports in Imo state, Hon. Ogu Daniel Chike and former board member of NTF, Dr Mrs Pat Anyanwu.
During the visit, the DVC Deputy Vice Chancellor also lauded the historic Olympic history of the University, then showered encomiums on both Chika and Elizabeth, adding, “We are proud that a FUTO Alumna trained a FUTO student to become an Olympian. We are the only university to boast if having two Taekwondo Olympians and one Olympic Medalist. It is history we are proud of and hope we can build on in the future.”
Prof. Oguike, also hoped that females in the community could become inspired by the recent witnessed events.
Ofcourse, Chika’s stay in Owerri ended with a visit to Dr. Patrick Ekeji, former director-general of the defunct National Sports Commission and serving deputy chief of staff to incumbent Imo state governor Hope Uzodinma.
More than a passion
He also met some young Taekwondo athletes training inside Dan Anyiam stadium before he proceeded to Awka where he equally met kids training to become future Taekwondo champions.
The passion Chika posses in ‘large quantity’ which has steadily led him to touch lives in diverse ways with personal resources, easily connect him to many.
In the past five years and beyond (the period he discovered Elizabeth and other current high performing Taekwondo athletes as rookies), Chika remained consistent in his personal drive to replicate himself in others.
Testimonies now abound how his efforts have continually yielded unprecedented results with undying desire to do more. Aside churning out rising athletes (technically), his presence in the dissolved board of NTF made great difference (administratively). With him, the database of ‘who’s who’ within the Nigerian Taekwondo circle is guaranteed. His innovation has gradually restored Taekwondo among grade A sports in Nigeria.
With his vast experience and far-reaching connection and candour even at World Taekwondo level, Taekwondo community in Nigeria is sure in good hands for better times ahead.