Sports

I feel more pressure as coach than when I was an athlete –Deji Aliu

Ex international, Deji Aliu, in an interview with KELECHI IGWE has said that athletes need all available meets to be ready for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Excerpts…

The African Championships was recently canceled, do you see that as a setback for our athletes’ preparation for the Olympics?

It is definitely, it is a very big setback. I mean those are some of the competitions that are lined up in helping us get to where we should before the National competition; I mean it’s going to be a very big setback.

There was a recent meet organised by the Athletic Federation of Nigeria and your organisation, Making of Champions, how will that help too?

It was a very welcome event and a good one, that’s the way to go, we need to get the athletes busy before the Olympics, especially been an Olympic year. Basically, what we are trying to do is to get the athletes in shape, get them ready for the Nationals (National Trials) and probably the Olympics.

Some of our relay teams are yet to qualify; do you still see them achieving that qualification mark?

The problem is some of our athletes made it to the U.S. while some failed, and we really need those at home to complement those in the U.S. because right now I don’t think the team is complete without one or two athletes there.

Your event, the 100m, was at a time up there but suddenly things went down. Now the athletes are picking up with more than three running sub 10secs, what can you say about this development?

Well, I think that was largely due to what we were doing, what we started at MoC. I mean if you look at the sprint right now, we have been able to bring up some very good young boys and they have been able to wake everybody up. I mean we were able to wake everybody up, we have told them that if you’re not ready we are ready, so right now everybody is kind of ready. You can see the sprint is very interesting now, it is one event everybody wants to watch and I think it is largely due to what we are doing there in MoC.

Could you share the difference between your days as an athlete and now as a coach?

It’s quite different; I think it is more dem a n d i n g now, more stressful and more draining, you know emotional draining kind of. I mean when I was running I was able to manage everything on my own, but right now, I have to manage three or more athletes, you know if they are competing, I am always on my toes, you know short of breath and all that, it is not really easy honestly. I am using this opportunity to say a shout out to all my coaches, I now realise what they were all going through then, they really tried, it’s not easy, I mean getting the work done in training, going to the competitions, meeting expectations, and stuffs like that, it’s really difficult to handle, but I am up to the task.

Recently, a former American sprinter and later a coach, Lee Evans, died in Nigeria, what can you say about this man who has done so well for track and field especially in Nigeria?

Yeah, all I can say right now is may his soul rest in perfect peace. He was somebody that did so much for Nigerian athletes, I have been reading a lot in the last few days about him and the angels in heaven should welcome him and give him a rousing welcome. He brought so much glory to Nigerian track and field and contributed immensely. We all will leave one day, he has paid his own dues, I mean his legacies are there to speak for him; so I will say may his gentle soul rest in perfect peace.

Looking at your team working with MoC we have great men like you, Uchenna Emedolu, Francis Obikwelu, and Glory Alozie, tell us about the MoC and this special thing of coming together to really develop the young talents?

As you said, a great team, great minds, you know great minds do great things and that’s exactly what we are doing at MoC. Basically, we believe in mentoring the athletes, contributing our own quota and that is exactly what we are doing. If you look at the athletes, in MoC they’re are quite young, they are doing things that are older than their age and that’s as a result of the kind of people that are mentoring them, people that are coaching them and that’s exactly what we want to do and that’s what we stand for in MoC.

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