By Chijioke Okoronkwo
Abuja, – Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has received some world class young Nigerian gymnasts describing their performances as intriguing and exciting.
Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, in a statement on Tuesday, said the vice-president received members of TIG International Gymnastics Club on Monday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The gymnasts, who adorned sporting outfits, were accompanied by their coaches, parents and handlers, altogether a group numbering no fewer than 40.
Speaking after the remarks by the athletes and a video presentation of their participation in the recent championship in South Africa, Osinbajo expressed delight at the conduct of the gymnasts, their coaches and parents.
He said: “This is exciting because there is really great hope for gymnastics in Nigeria, especially people who are starting so very young.”
Osinbajo commended TIG Gymnastics International and Coach Anthony Asuquo, founder of the club, other coaches and even the parents.
The vice-president added: “I think you are pioneers of some sort in encouraging your children to be gymnasts.
”I am greatly encouraged by what I am seeing, especially that so many of the kids are winning medals and doing well in gymnastics.
“I see a lot of the athletics categories and how well people are doing, but I think that we really have some great potential.
”Just seeing the video, it is evident that there are a lot of promises and talents that are available here in Nigeria.”
Osinbajo thanked the two gymnasts, Dolapo Adedeji and Tomisin Babatunde for their very kind words.
He acknowledged the abundance of talents in the country and urged the coaches, athletes and their parents to be good ambassadors of Nigeria.
“It is very nice to say that we have done very well.
“What we are seeing here is what Nigeria truly is. Nigeria is a country filled with incredible talents and there are also incredible opportunities.
“When you listen to people talk about their countries, many countries are not anywhere near as good or as promising as Nigeria, but people always speak well of their countries, especially outside the country.
“I want to encourage you to always think of your country in a positive light and to speak well of your country because nobody will speak well of your country better than you will,”Osinbajo said.
The vice-president said that there were many countries that were not in any way near Nigeria, adding, ” but their citizens speak well of their country.”
”So, it is very important, first of all, that you speak well of your country and that you represent your country well.
“Anywhere you have been, the fact that you are so good and you have performed so well and won medals.
”It is evident that you are patriotic and you are truly Nigerian and you love your country and you want your country to do well,’’ he said.
Osinbajo commended the founder of the club for his efforts over the years.
He said that areas of possible support from the government would be explored especially in ensuring that more talents were nurtured to national and international prominence.
Earlier in his remarks, Asuquo said the club, founded 11 years ago had trained 3,000 athletes, nurtured several gymnastics coaches and represented the country at international competitions.
He solicited support, especially in the provision of training facilities, and sponsorship of athletes and officials to national and international gymnastics competitions.
Earlier, multiple gold medal-winning athletes, Stephanie Onusiriuka, Babatunde and Adedeji, spoke particularly about their experience as international athletes, winning laurels for Nigeria, even as upcoming gymnasts.
Eight-year-old Adedeji, who spoke on behalf of the young gymnasts, was full of praise for the vice-president, especially for finding time to meet the team and for all the good things he was doing to make Nigeria a better place.
She spoke about gymnastics training at the club and some of the challenges faced by athletes and officials, especially in the area of facilities, seeking the support of the government and well-meaning Nigerians.
Adedeji assured the vice-president that athletes at the club would continue to work harder to make their parents, the club and the country proud at both national and international competitions.
On his part, Babatunde who had bagged gold and six bronze medals to his credit so far thanked the founder of the club and sponsors for the support given to him especially in actualising his dream of becoming a professional gymnast.
More so, Onusiriuka, who started professional gymnastics in Oct. 2018 and won a gold medal at the recently held Africa Gymnastics Championships in Pretoria, South Africa, thanked the vice president for the visit to the Presidential Villa.
At the 2019 National Youth Games in Ilorin, Onusiriuka won several silver and bronze medals to become Nigeria’s youngest medalist in gymnastics.(NAN)