By Amaechi Agbo
Twenty-two gymnasts yesterday left Abuja for South Africa to participate in the 2018 edition of Africa International System Championship.
The team made up gymnasts aged between 6 to 15 years departed Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja in the afternoon en route South Africa.
Speaking to journalists before the departure, coach of the side, Anthony Asuquo explained that the aim of the championship was to expose the children to elite championship and also play for Olympics qualifiers.
“We are going to South Africa for African Level System Championship and the club Championship in Africa to develop gymnasts from one level to the next so that they can build up their skills from level one to the Olympics level. We have been working on the championship tirelessly and we will be traveling to South Africa with 22 gymnasts from Nigeria. We also have foreigners who decided to represent Nigeria.
“This year we have been working very hard and the children have been doing very well. We are expecting to bring back more medals and make Nigeria proud. We are also expected to be good ambassadors over their while representing our country.
“The gymnasts are very ready. We have the age bracket from 6 years to 15. They are doing well and should be competing in level 2 and 3 but they are competing in level five. One of our gymnasts who is in Algeria came out top in the games and qualified for the Olympics, she will be joining us in South Africa. She started with us here. We have been able to build up the routine at tender age and that has been working for us.
“The team is departing today, that is 24th of July, and the competition starts on the 27th.
There are over 200 thousands registered gymnasts that will be participating in the championship. The competition is in three phases – we have the qualifiers that will last from 27 to 28 of July, then 30 to 31 and the big regional is from 3rd to 5th of August,” Asuquo, an internationally certified gymnastics coach said.
Some of the gymnasts who spoke with journalists expressed confidence in doing Nigeria proud at the event.
According to Abigail Sophia, “I have been training very hard. I am going to compete in level 4 and 5 in the competition. I hope to at least pass the first phase. This is my very first time of going to South Africa and competing for Nigeria. I am hopeful because I have gotten a lot of medals already in gymnastics and other sports.’
Tonison Babatunde who is competing in level 8 said he was going to win medals for Nigeria. “We are going there to do competition. I am competing in level 8. I am very confident because I am doing all my routine and with that I know I am going to get medal. We are going to get medals in the competitions we are participating in,” he concluded.
A parent, Patience Anord stated that her daugther’s passion for gymnast made them support her in her chosen career.
“The motivating factor why my daughter joined gymnast is the passion she has for the game. She is very good at it and that is one of the things that have inspired us to continue doing gymnastics at this level.
“I am very confident because I have watched her train for the past few weeks and she has really improved from the last time she went to South Africa. I am hundred per cent confident that she is going to make Nigeria proud and bring back gold medal.”