The World Youth U-18 Championships in Kenya ended with Nigeria conspicuously missing the competition for the second consecutive time.
Just when the country is still recovering from the blow of missing the just concluded African Junior U-20 Championship held in Tlemcen, Algeria, the same scenario played out in Nairobi with Nigeria unable to send an U-18 team.
All the Nigerian athletes listed in some of the events for Day 1 had a Did Not Start (DNS) attached to their names after the events were concluded. This is a recurrence that has become synonymous with Nigeria because of its recent penchant of not sending teams to Junior and Youth competitions recently.
A look back to two years ago when Nigeria also could not send a team to the World U-18 Championships in Cali, Colombia in 2015, now makes it two successive competitions missed.
Although the South American nation is very far from Nigeria, and could cost an arm and a leg in travel logistics (by the way Moldova and Uzbekistan sent teams there) but missing this edition in Kenya is totally inexcusable.
This is one big miss that Nigeria will rue for a very long time, mostly because the IAAF is completely phasing out the under 18 Championships, and we have missed a big opportunity to have been part of history.
Enoch Olaoluwa Adegoke and Gershon Omubo were the first two Nigerian athletes to have a DNS on the day, missing heat 2 and 3 of the Boys 100m respectively.
They were followed by Nsikark Francis Okon who also had a no show in the Boys 400m, likewise Rosemary Chukwuma who would have competed in the Girls 100m.
South Africa is leading the way by showing that there’s a succession plan in place to support the likes of Wayde Van Niekerk and Akani Simbine, seeing how they have exposed their younger ones to competitions in order to groom them.
Gift Leotlela and Clarence Munyai both made their marks at the World Junior Championships last year in Poland, and are both on the cusp of cutting the South African senior team, not forgetting how Munyai who last month after competing in Hungary on a Wednesday flew straight to Algeria to win the 200m title the next day, meanwhile Nigeria couldn’t make it there.
Until Nigeria starts exposing athletes to competitions like these, we would only be aspiring to even reach the heights of continental neighbours South Africa and Kenya, not even mentioning USA and Jamaica.
This is serious setback for Nigeria athletes, missing such important competition, where most of the young athletes discovered would be exposed to the outside world. This is not good for us, especially in the forthcoming Olympics.
With the 2018 IAAF World Junior Championships in Finland barely a year away, it would be travesty if Nigeria ends up not sending a team there. There’s still enough time to plan on how to get Team Nigeria there, and this time it shouldn’t be on just presenting a team, but also getting to the competition early enough, not on the day an athlete is meant to compete.