A member of the Nigeria Taekwondo Federation (NTF) board, Chika Chukwumerije, says early preparation will help Nigeria qualify for taekwondo and win medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Chukwumerije told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that preparation should have even started for the Tokyo Olympic Games three years ago.
He said such an early start would ensure adequate preparation of the taekwondo athletes.
“We should have started three years ago for Tokyo. If we are starting now, we are late.
“When NTF board members are not meeting and nobody knows what is going on, you can’t say there is a federation. But we do have the best composition of board members.
“The federation went for the Rio Olympics qualifiers and the board members were only informed through e-mail. We were not involved at all in what happened.
“The federation president singlehandedly did his thing, including the changing of the original technical crew which led the team to the qualifiers.
“They went and didn’t qualify for the Rio Olympics and we had no official notification. The board members didn’t even know that we didn’t qualify,’’ Chukwumerije claimed.
He however said individual board members were already working to ensure taekwondo developed beyond its current level in the country.
The 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medallist expressed regrets that Nigeria was yet to win another Olympics taekwondo medal after the one he won.
He pointed out that Niger Republic and Cote d’Ivoire have overtaken Nigeria with their athletes’ exploits at the Rio Olympics.
The Nigerien athlete won silver, while the Ivorian won gold in the men’s senior category.
“The Nigerien who won a taekwondo silver at the Rio Olympics attended the Chika Chukwumerije Sports Foundation (CCSF) programme in 2015 in Abuja.
“The Ivorian who won gold has a local coach, not a foreigner. If a board as good as ours is in place and yet we allow individual sentiments to take over collective wisdom, then we are in trouble,’’ Chukwumerije said.
He however expressed optimism that Nigeria would qualify for and also excel at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics if the federation got its acts right.
“Taekwondo always do well, but it’s going to get tough if we don’t get our acts right.
“When you have countries which have won Olympic medals, the honour and advantage go a long way to inspire the athletes in those countries.
“We need to respond and we need to respond fast. I don’t think qualifying for Tokyo will be difficult, from my point of view, because we have good coaches. But the problem will be administrative.’’
Chukwumerije was however also quick to point out that it would be disastrous for the country’s taekwondo development if the Nigeria failed again to qualify for the Olympics.
“We have already missed this one and it won’t be good to fail again.’’
NAN recalls that Team Nigeria won only one bronze medal, from football, at the just-concluded Rio Olympics, and did not feature in the taekwondo event.