19th National Sports Festival: Blessing Okagbare Complains of low Turnout

Olympics and World Championships medallist Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor on Thursday lamented on the lack of fans at venues to cheer competing athletes at the on-going 19th National Sports Festival in Abuja.

The athlete spoke at the on-going National Sports Festival, decrying the lack of support for up-and-coming athletes in the country.

The sprinter said she would have loved to compete at the festival but she is still managing an injury she suffered during the course of the year.

She said, “From my own observation, the event is going well except for the turnout, which is very poor. We would have expected more fans to come and support the athletes.

“I was hoping for more people in the stands but it is not what I expected. In this festival, we [athletes] have been watching ourselves. But overall, the energy has been great.

“The energy is still at the festival but in the past, there was more support for track and field athletes. When I started, I just wanted to compete but I could see there was a lot of support from the top.

“Amos Adamu was the Director of Sports Development then. They would talk to us before any event but now it’s the athletes that do things by themselves. Nothing motivates athletes than being cared for. They know what they have to do, so we cannot keep saying the same thing every time.”

Speaking of the injury that kept her out for about a year, Okagbare said she had completed her rehabilitation and began training three weeks ago.

“I would have loved to be part of the festival just to do it for the fans; it would have been fun. But I’ve been struggling with the terrible injury the whole year and I need time to take care of that.

“I have to take a break. I just started training after rehabilitation three weeks ago and this competition does not fit in any way in my schedule.

“I wanted to get ready for the All Africa Games and World Championships and perform like the real Okhagbare had been doing; I need this break to actually get ready for better glory.”

Okagbare looks to return to the track after full rehabilitation with hope for a local championship next year where she can compete and encourage up-and-coming athletes.

“If we have a championship next year, I will compete with the up-and-coming athletes. I don’t have a problem with that. If the opportunity comes I will compete with them,” she said.