National Taekwondo Champions have reacted to their performance at the recently concluded World Taekwondo President Cup Africa Region in Agadir, Morocco.
Out of the nine athlete team, seven lost in the round of 16, one lost in the quarter-finals and one was disqualified during the weigh-in. Also, seven lost to Europeans while one lost to an African country. The athletes had a total number of five fights against African countries, and came out on top four times.
The team made it to Morocco on the back of various contributions made by 33 ordinary Nigerians from all walks of life.
For Nigeria’s Elizabeth Anyanacho, losing against World Champion and Olympic Silver Medallist, Haby Niara of France came with vital lessons.
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“I went out there to win. My opponent’s pedigree did not faze me at all but her experience was what made the difference in the end as I lost by four points. I attacked relentlessly but her footwork and timing was better than mine, so I will go back and keep working hard on my taekwondo development”
For National Champion, Bright Kolade, defeating all the Africans he met was a good sign for the upcoming All African Games in Morocco.
“I defeated home favourite Morocco and then DR Congo before losing to Italy. This has boosted my confidence ahead of the All African Games in Morocco, because I am even more driven to clinch the national ticket and come back and finish the job. It is my dream to be African Champion, but I will take the lessons I learnt against the Italian I lost to and start working on my weaknesses exposed”
One of the national coaches, John Victor, highlighted areas of improvement for the team.
“We need to encourage the athletes to attack with more confidence while shoring up their defence. Some of the athletes were not great with listening and responding to instructions and we would work to improve this in the training. I only wish the Federation can get more financial support so we can have more international exposure like this.”
Speaking on the performance of Team Nigeria, three-time Olympian and Chika Chukwumerije was out-spoken on the outcome.
“I set realistic objectives for the team. I told them that it was compulsory to beat every African they met out her, as this was my target given that the All African Games will be in Morocco in just four months. They met five Africans in total and lost only once.”
Speaking on the across board loss to Europeans by literally all members of the team, the former Olympic Bronze medallist spoke on the importance of exposure.
“It is unrealistic to expect a talented athlete that has not competed on the international level before or has had only one outside international experience in the past two years to easily feat competitors that have no less than 20 international competitors in a year. But, apart from the loss of African Champion Uzoamaka, every other person lost with just one or a couple of points. It was a lack of experience that made the difference.”
Chukwumerije went on to thank well meaning Nigerians for their vital contributions that made the trip possible and asked for more support for the federation.
“We came here because Nigerians contributed N1,000 and more within a space of 24 hours. We were overwhelmed with the response and are very grateful. Truly, the government cannot do this alone. Their contributions not only ensured our athletes got their important exposure ahead of the All African Games, but it also ensured our participation in the African congress where five Nigerians were subsequently appointed into the various committees of World Taekwondo Africa.
Some of the countries that participated included Great Britain, Spain, France, Egypt, Morocco, Brazil, Palestine, Germany, Belgium, Côte D’Ivoire, Niger Republic, DR Congo, Benin Republic, Ethiopia, Philippines, Portugal, Laos, Russia, USA among others.
In the male events, Spain topped the medal table with 2 Gold and 3 Bronze, Italy came in second position with 2 Gold medals and Slovenia came in third position with 1 Gold and 1 Silver while Tunisia was an impressive fourth with 1 Gold and 2 Bronze medals.
In the female events, Croatia came in first with 3 Gold and 2 Bronze medals, Morocco was in second place with 1 Gold and 1 Silver while Cote D’Ivoire clinched the third position with 1 Gold and 1 Bronze medal.
The Nigeria National Team is expected to compete in May at the World Taekwondo Championships in Manchester in further preparations for the All African Games in August.