Olympics bronze medallist, Chika Chukwumerije could not hide his excitement at the weekend when the youths from across the country came together to determine who are the country’s best taekwondo junior athletes in Abuja. It was the maiden National Junior Taekwondo Open Championships, which featured athletes from across the zones.
At the end, Delta State got a total of four gold, three silver and one bronze medals to win the competition, while host, Abuja finished second with two gold, one silver and one bronze medals. Benue and Ebonyi finished as joint third with one gold and one silver medals respectively.
Taraba, Nasarawa and Akwa Ibom all won one gold medal each to make the top six finish at the championship, which pioneered the introduction of a round robin system in preliminaries before the knockout stages.
The full Daedo electronic body and head gear system was used in the competition, while a selection of top national referees for the tournament fulfilled the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) gender balance specifications (10 Referees – five male, five female).
According to the Technical Director of the Nigeria Taekwondo Federation (NTF), Chika Chukwumerije, the tournament was an eye-opener for the federation.
“The championships brought me a lot of pleasure and erased my great distress at the fact that the taekwondo federation had never had a national age grade event since its inauguration 31 years ago in 1987. As I looked at the hundreds of youngsters across the six geo-political zones that made it to the historic event, I knew that we had wronged three decades of youngsters whose careers would have been different. I also knew that this was a step in the right direction to ensure that the next generation is not deprived of a vital cog in their wheel of sporting and educational development,” the three-time Olympian said.
He added: “I observed that many of the youth athletes were using the daedo electronic system for the very first time. Also, many had never been to a competitive event with an international standard layout. Hence, while the bulk fought with a lot of passion and talent, there was an obvious knowledge gap with regards to how to score effectively with the electronic system. I also noticed the real shock experienced by some athletes who had never experienced real opposition. Like a little fish, who has always been in a small stream and is suddenly thrown into open seas and discovers there are bigger fishes that exist.”
The Beijing Olympic bronze medalist believes tournaments like the youth championship would help the country to unearth next Olympic champions.
“This is why a national taekwondo event that brings together all the regional best is so important. As iron sharpens iron, so will such an event improve these youth athletes and the country will be better for it when the national youth team is being put together.
“Also a database helped the taekwondo federation to identify an age cheat, who had been disqualified at the last 2017 National Youth Games for age cheating but showed up at the event to compete. If records had not been kept, perhaps this fellow who looks as young as all the other true youngsters would have been allowed to compete,” he said.