Thirteen years after Chika Chukwumerije won a bronze medal in taekwondo event of Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, 22-year-old Elizabeth Anyanacho, who is the first woman in 16 years to represent Nigeria in the taekwondo event of the Tokyo Olympic Games will be aiming to repeat Chukwumerije’s feat.
However, this long hiatus for Nigeria in the sport has set tongues wagging over the fortunes of the sport in the country. While some taekwondists are of the view that the out-going Margaret Binga-led board of Nigeria Taekwondo Federation has performed well in office, others argue to the contrary.
2019 African Games gold medalist, Chinazum Nwosu believes that under the Binga-led board, the sport has witnessed several successes especially in terms of athletes ranking, grading, and organization of tournaments. “I want to tell you that so much has changed under the Binga-led board especially when it comes to the ranking system, selection of athletes for major competitions as well as Kukkiwon Grading system.
“Prior to the outgoing board, we had no ranking as athletes are selected randomly to represent the country. But now every athlete knows his or her rating and this is the basis of athletes’ selection for major tournaments. The Kukkiwon grading system has really improved unlike in the past where things were not done properly,” Nwosu said.
She added: “The coaching system has also improved as more coaches are well updated on the latest rules in the sport. I must also commend the efforts of the Technical Director, Chika Chukwumerije, who has been working hard to make certain changes in the interest of the athletes.”
But unlike Nwosu, 2019 African Games bronze medalist, Uzuamaka Otunadinma believes nothing seems to have changed in the sport. In fact, she blames the Binga-led board for her inability to compete at the Olympic qualifiers. Her words: “I cannot imagine myself not going to the qualifiers and finally miss out on the Olympic Games in Tokyo. It is just frustrating that a lot of athletes have been discouraged with the way things are being run in the federation. For me, the last four years have not been good and it is painful that I cannot compete at the Olympic Games,” a visibly frustrated Otunadinma said.
However, Vivian Ndu, three-time national champion, believes that the Binga-led board has handled the sport with transparency and accountability which was lacking before the board came on board. “Now athletes know that if you work hard you can make the national team. I like their transparency when it comes to athletes’ selection to major tournaments. Things have really changed for the better as some of us outside Lagos and Abuja now have the chance to make the national team because everything is now based on merit,” Ndu said.
The 2015 African Games bronze medalist does not underestimate the contributions of Chukwumerije to the sport, saying, “As Technical Director, Chukwumerije has made the sport exciting with his unique style of carrying everybody along in whatever they are doing in the NTF. This has inspired me to work harder.”