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No fewer than 124 athletes are taking part at the ongoing National Open Judo Commonwealth trials which opened on Wednesday at the Teslim Balogun Stadium Surulere, Lagos.
The 124 athletes at the two-day trials are from 19 organisations including universities, states and clubs nationwide.
Oshodi Musa, President, Nigeria Judo Federation, said at the venue that the top athletes would be representing the country in international tournaments.
He added that the federation would no longer rely on individual athlete’s past performances to represent the country.
“My expectation after this trial is to have a team that can be up to the task, a team that can wrestle with their colleagues at the international level .
“The team that will make Nigeria proud and that is why immediately after this tournament we are taking those that emerge as winners into camp for further training.
“We don’t want to rely on past performances of athletes. This trials has witnessed the biggest turnout in the history of Judo in the federation.
“What we are seeing today is a reflection of their individual states preparations and after this we will give them the international level preparations,” he said.
The president said that 14 athletes would represent the country in the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.
He said that the competition would also serves as a pool in choosing more athletes for other competitions aside the Commonwealth Games.
“Presently, our plan is to take about 14 athletes to the Commonwealth Games but that will be determined by funds available from the Ministry and Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC).
“ Nigeria has what it takes to have enough Judokas to make us proud. It is even difficult to chose from the last fight, whereby you have already rule someone out and then the next minute the person comes around.
“That is why I insisted that this trials must hold in order for us to determine individuals fitness and performance.
“This trials is not only meant for Commonwealth Games, it also serve as a pool for us to determine the judokas that will be going for international meet.
“If we are talking about a particular category we know the person we need to train for such competition.
“This is also for our international exploit not only for Commonwealth Games, we have some international competition before Commonwealth , so we know that we have capable judokas that will be representing the country,” he said.
Also speaking at the trials, Amos Iliya, technical Director, Nigeria Judo Federation, said he saw hope coming back to Nigeria Judo.
He added that over the years the federation had lost touch with the reality of the game but with the trials hope for the games would be restored.
“My expectations for the Judo game trials, is that I see hope coming back to Nigeria Judo trials over the years we have lost touch with the reality of game.
“With this kind of trials, we have people that would come up in the podium in Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England .
“With what am seeing, though the competition has just started, with one or two fights that I have seen, the sky would be the limit for Nigerian Judokas,” Iliya said.
Also speaking, Lucky Esezobor, Coach, Edo State Judo said that he was pleased with the present government.
He added that the trials would help improve the sport at all levels.
He said though his team was not performing to his expectation but he was glad the trials held.
“This present government is doing so much to develop the sport and we really appreciate it.
“It will also help to develop a lot of interest of athletes in the sport.
“Though my athletes are not performing very well, but it has opened my eyes to see where we need to develop ourselves more.
“My expectation is that some of my team members will be part of those that will represent the country in international games,” he said.
NAN reports that the women categories includes: 48kg, 52kg, 57kg, 63kg, 70kg and 78kg while men categories include; 60kg, 66kg, 73kg, 81kg, 90kg and 100kg.
NAN reports that the trials would end on Feb. 24. (NAN)