More than 1000 youngsters got the opportunity to compete at the 1st Abuja City Kids and Youth Athletics Classics, which was held at the Training Pitch of the Abuja National Stadium between June 20 to 21 (Saturday and Sunday), with their parents at hand to lend some support to the future stars.
The children, whose ages ranged between 8 and 17 years, could not hide their excitement at the prospect of rubbing shoulders with their peers, while some of them were provided with a chance of learning the rudiments of the sport, such as the use of running spikes and starting blocks.
The younger ones took part in the 30m and 50m races, while the older kids competed in the 100m, 200m, Long Jump, Shot put and relay races. As expected, the competition threw up a lot of drama from the younger kids as a lot of them kept running into the lanes of their co-competitors, with some of them breaking into tears after being disqualified, or finishing outside the top position.
That didn’t stop them from putting up impressive performances though. One the fastest times of the event was run by 14-year old Daniel Richard of Kids and Play who ran a time of 11.60s (hand timing). Dominic Onah, who won the Long Jump with a distance of 5.86m, also ran 11.65s in the 17-year old Boys’ 100m race. Umar Usman came 2nd in the jumps with 5.83m while Godswill Inyang followed with 5.66m.
Another 14-year old, Naziru Awal of Kids and Play also clocked 11.66s, while 15-year old Suubla Joshua of Baptist High School Kubwa returned a time of 11.73s. The Girls’ fastest time was recorded by Goodness Vinom (11.98s) who is 17-years old, while 14-year old Hope Joshua posted 12.88s in her event.
15-year old Favour Tochukwu won both her heats in the 100m and 200m races, and says she will start training seriously in order to get better in athletics. Chizoba Ajah who placed 2nd behind her in both races disclosed that she loves running, but hasn’t been encouraged by her school. She said, “I love running but my school doesn’t take sports seriously. It makes me sad because I want to continue running. “
Kolade Ayeni, Chigozie Chidi and Anslem Adepetu all did well in the Boys’ 11-year category of the 50m and 100m races, while Ahmed Mohammed returned a time of 7.37s in the 50m race for the 8-10 years category. Ayeni who is a JSS 1 student of Premier Academy won both heats in the 50m and 100m, and believes that he is naturally endowed with the talent to run.
Chidi who came 2nd in his race said, “I’m happy that at least, I didn’t come last. But from now I will not be distracted anymore. I will be focused on my races in future and try my best to improve my performance.” The Boys’ 4x100m was won by Government Secondary School (GSS) Juwa (50.46s), with GSS Garki and JSS Airport following with 50.84s and 53.83s respectively.
The Girls’ category was dominated by LEA Gwarinpa II in 57.84s, while JSS Jiwa placed 2nd in 58.12s as Nelson Mandela College took 3rd in 1:00.35. The kids were also treated to a performance from the elite athletes and cheered as the older athletes ran in the Men and Women’s 200m races.
Mr Taiwo Oladeinde whose daughters participated in the competition, lauded the efforts of the organisers. He said, “This is a fantastic competition because it is a developmental programme where talents can be discovered. It’s just about creating a balance between their school work and physical education.
“For example, I made sure that they did their school assignments this morning before leaving for the stadium, because we knew that they would be tired by the time they get back home, so it can be done”.
Another parent, Alphonsus Ayang said, “I’m exciting to sit down and watch my little daughter run. I encourage her education and Physical Education as well. I will support her if she decides to pursue a professional career in athletics if that is what she has been destined to do. I want to commend the organisers because this is a good programme every parent should embrace.”
Co-ordinator of the Kids and Play programme and the 1st Abuja City Kids and Youth Athletics Classics, Mike Enahoro gave Making of Champions a glimpse as to how the initiative was born:
“Kids and Play started when my son, Ituah came to Abuja. We drove around and saw a lot of children after school who were all involved in football, as that was the only after-school engagement which had a structure. He challenged me to set up something like this, since I was paying for him to become an elite athlete through an after-school progamme in the Netherlands.
“This has taken two years and now we have 300 kids involved and another 485 on the waiting list. For all the people who couldn’t get into Kids and Play, we thought we should do something that they could be a part of, because every child that loves athletics doesn’t have to wait for their school’s inter-house sports to compete, since we will have a classics every 90 days.
“We are seeing a dying breed of athletes; the Metus and Okagbares are getting married and looking forward to starting a family, and their attention to athletics will get less; these are the kids that will take over. We are not in a hurry to win, but we are in a hurry to develop. We are not chasing after winning at all costs; we are chasing after teaching the kids how to run, and if the enjoy it, they will get better”, he said.