Monday, May 11, 2009

Cartwheels in.......


In 2005, the Nigerian Gymnastics Federation began to set up a technical committee and were looking for an advisor for the National team. This main aim of this technical committee was to be able to take a team of Nigerian athletes to The 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.  From what I can gather, they did not succeed in sending a team to Melbourne.  Hopefully they will be more successful in the next quad.

In 2008 The Gymnastics Federation of Nigeria decided to introduce gymnastics in to school curriculums in the Federal Capital Territory, meaning the sport has popularised rapidly.  The plan is to seek talent through the schools and to then give talented kids more specialised training in order to "close the gap now exisiting between the aging and the upcoming athletes" according to All Africa Now news source.  The federation is eager for Nigeria to produce internationally competitive champions.  There has, however, been some opposition to the introduction of the sport, on economic grounds, with education group complaining that there are not enought facilities available to teach gymnastics properly in many of the forty schools selected.

I was prompted to write the latest Cartwheels segment about Nigeria after reading about a little gymnast called Mercy Dooshima James, who is described as rising talent in Nigerian gymnastics by USA Next.  I was taken by the fact she shares the same name as my favorite Aunt (!) but also because of her small story about how she started gymnastics at age six.  She told reporters that beginning gymnastics was the riskiest thing she ever did.

"I have this friend Mary, who is part of our team.  Any time I watch her practise I pray in my heart that she does not get hurt.  She is always twisiting her body, jumping, somersaulting and doing a lot of things.  I thought God, please do protect her."

Sweet huh?  Then of course, little Mercy couldn't help but join in all the twisting and jumping!  Since joining her club, she has won medals at a National Sports Festival and at the Dangote Championships where she took a silver on floor.  Mercy now plans to continue in gymnastics through secondary school.  Her parents have been very supportive.

The Edo State Club seems to be the most successful Nigerian sports club, hosting and winning the recent third Aljahi Aliko Dangote Gymnastics Competition at the National stdium.  10 year-old gymnast Marvis Idehen is the their best gymnast and helped the club as they took home 10 gold, two silver, and four bronze from the competition. 

Three hundred gymnasts competed altogether at the last Dangote championships. The junior category was just introduced to the competition this time.   A leading sponsor of Nigerian gymnastics, Foluso Adefemi,  told The Guardian, " The journey so far has been challenging.  Taking up this enormous task these past years is my humble way of contributing to the development of gymnastics in Nigeria.  In this edition we have decided to include the junior category in order to catch them at a young age."
He has promised continuing financial support of the National Championships in order to encourage the growth and competitive nature of it in Nigeria.

Recently, at a soccer game in which a Nigerian team played, a group of supporters held up a funny sign, saying;
"Our gymnastics is no good.  Our ping pong is no good.  But our soccer is good!"  

Hopefully with all the resources being put into Nigerian gymnastics in the hope of bringing medals to the country, the soccer fans won't be able to claim this anymore!

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