The chairman of Anambra State sports development, Patrick-Estate Onyedum, has issued a stern warning that Anambra State may consider pulling out of future editions of the National Youth Games (NYG) due to the persistent issue of age cheating, which has cast a shadow over the integrity of the competition.
Speaking at the conclusion of the 7th edition of the NYG held in Asaba, Delta State, where Anambra achieved its all-time best medal record, Mr. Onyedum expressed gratitude to Governor Chukwuma Soludo for his unwavering support and investment in the sports sector. However, he decried the unfair competition brought about by age cheating in the games.
Mr. Onyedum attributed the rise in age cheating to the allure of medals and financial rewards for coaches, stressing that it was imperative for organizers to return to the original ethos of the NYG, which prioritized talent discovery over medals.
He stated, “If this trend of age cheating, by re-including screened-out athletes, continues, Anambra may have to boycott subsequent editions. We have to go back to the original idea of NYG, which is talent discovery; that is why there was nothing like medals in the early editions.”
Highlighting the previous administration’s use of National Identification Numbers (NIN) for athlete screening, which was later abandoned, Mr. Onyedum emphasized the need for a robust screening process to ensure fair competition.
Reflecting on Anambra’s impressive performance in the 2023 NYG, where they secured 22 medals, including seven gold, six silver, and nine bronze, Mr. Onyedum praised the team’s dedication and resilience in a competitive environment tainted by age cheating.
He expressed his commitment to retaining and nurturing the discovered talents through a grassroots-driven approach aimed at restoring Anambra’s prominence in Nigerian sports. Mr. Onyedum said, “I have a plan to keep these athletes in shape and also make them fly the Anambra flag on the world stage. Nobody will take these talents from us; instead, I will spend my personal money.”
The chairman also acknowledged the efforts of his predecessors and their contributions to Anambra’s sporting success, vowing to carry the torch forward to even greater heights.
Anambra’s outstanding achievements in the 2023 NYG include gold medals in the 4x100m female relay, 100m female sprint, high jump for females, Taekwondo poomsae (single and team), beach volleyball for males, and karate kumite (individual). Silver medals were secured in female rugby, gymnastics Vault, 200m girls, 100m female, and chess. Additionally, the team clinched nine bronze medals in various events, including the 200m girls, volleyball (boys and girls).