Crisis rocks National Youth Games, four Edo athletes stripped of gold

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Delta, Bayelsa, Lagos lead medal table
A major crisis is brewing at the ongoing National Youth Games in Ilorin, Kwara State, following an alleged disqualification of four athletes from Edo State after they won four gold medals in the gymnastics event.

The fourth edition of the NYG began on Monday without a contingent from Edo State due to the state government’s failure to sponsor its team. But the President of the Gymnastics Federation of Nigeria, Prince Kelvin Ehizogie, who is from Edo State, decided to sponsor four athletes each from Edo, Ondo and Kaduna State to Ilorin.

The four gymnasts from Edo State won four gold medals on Tuesday to take the state to the top of the medals table.
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The Guardian however learnt yesterday that some states protested the athletes’ eligibility for the NYG since Edo State did not register a team.

The protest was said to have received the blessing of the Director, Grassroots Sports Development in the Sports Ministry, Dr. Demola Are, whose department is solely responsible for organising the Games.

The decision to strip the four athletes of their gold medals is not going down well with the Gymnastics Federation boss, who threatened yesterday to challenge the decision in the office of the Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, in Abuja.

“This is very sad for Nigerian sport,” Prince Ehizogi told The Guardian. “When I heard that some state governments were unable to sponsor their athletes, I contacted the sports commissioners and directors of sports in Edo, Ondo and Kaduna State on the need to use the Games to expose the gymnasts. We agreed, and I sponsored four athletes from each of the states. There was a problem in registering the four athletes from Kaduna State.

“Now, the four athletes from Edo State won four gold medals, and Dr. Are called me to say he was stripping them of their medals just because of a protest that Edo State did not came as a contingent. We are trying to develop Nigerian sports, and some people are trying to frustrate my effort. How come they took the money and accepted the athletes in camp, only to turn around to strip them of their gold medals? Was it the fault of the athletes that their states’ government could not sponsor a team to Ilorin? I am going to Abuja tomorrow (today) to see the sports minister,” Ehizogie stated.

Efforts to speak with Dr. Are yesterday were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Team Delta has jumped to the top of the medals table with 10 gold, five silver and five bronze medals, after picking six gold medals in the swimming events yesterday. Bayelsa is second with five gold, while Lagos is third with four gold.

Team Lagos had a haul of medals in gymnastics and weightlifting events. Abimbola Disu won three gold and silver medals on Tuesday in the gymnastics, while Zainab Quadri won three gold in 48kg of the weightlifting event yesterday.