Nigeria sports minister, Sunday Dare has been hailed over his determined move to resuscitate long distance running in Nigeria after years of neglect.
A former national steeplechase record holder and World Athletics certified lecturer, Professor Ezra Gunnen, says Dare has shown “uncommon political will” to see that long distance runners in Nigeria get the required training, exposure and opportunity to compete locally and internationally.
Gunnen said middle and long distance development has never been a focus of any administration since the time of (Group Commander Anthony) Ikhazobor and believes developing long distance programmes will provide outlets that will redirect the energy of youths into positive ventures of self development.
He said, “Failure to develop the potentials in youths is causing them to depend on government for everything and when it’s not forthcoming, they join all sorts of groups.
“Prosecuting the project requires the will power of the sports ministry to channel resources in the right direction once and for all. Once developed, sponsors and organizations interested in specific athletes will take over.
“Developing distance runners requires time; at least one and a half years of good training, recovery and competition. It is attainable but as a research trial project unto the hands of few coaches.”
Gunnen is however not happy that most governments, especially states and local are thinking of developing athletes outside the school system.
“Both must work together as parents will not allow their children to be in sport without education and so sport should be seen as an entrepreneur programmes for students that have the potential. But with what we have now, we are just wasting our youths.”
He believes the minister’s moves in reforming sports generally and particularly with the long distance project would begin to correct some of these problems.
The committee has identified two training areas in Jos, Plateau State and Mambila in Taraba to develop facilities for altitude training and Gunnen heads the technical committee for the project.