The first batch of Team Nigeria athletes and officials will depart Nigeria for Tokyo Olympic Games tomorrow.
The second batch will leave on 13 July, for the overseas leg of their preparations which is scheduled for Kisarazu in Japan.
All the local athletes and officials have been camped in Abuja, Lagos, Yenagoa and Port Harcourt.
Simeon Ebhojaiye, the Director of Federations, Elite Athletes and Development (FEAD), Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, told NAN that preparation for both home-based and foreign-based athletes have been intensive.
He said the preparations were stepped up in May in readiness for the Games.
The director who directly supervises Team Nigeria’s preparations for the Games said the home-based athletes had been strategically camped in Lagos, Abuja, Yenagoa and Port Harcourt.
“These athletes cut across 10 sports events and they were camped in the last few weeks as preparations for the Games gets to a crescendo.
“Our countdown for the Games commenced in May for the home-based athletes in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Yenagoa, and we have also been monitoring the performances of the foreign-based athletes closely,” he said.
Patience Okon-George, the current captain of the athletics team which trained in Abuja, told news men that the team was raring to go and do the nation proud.
The experienced quarter-miler said training with the foreign-based athletes would now further lift the athletes’ morale and team chemistry.
“We have been in camp since May and the intense training has been going on well, we even travelled to the U.S. in the course of the training to see if we can qualify for the relays,” she said.
The Olympian assured that Team Nigeria’s athletics group, with its array of stars both home-based and foreign-based, would take the world by storm at the Tokyo Olympics.
“I can assure you that Team Nigeria’s athletics group is good to go. We have a lot of athletes who have qualified, such as Blessing Okagbare, Tobi Amusan, Divine Oduduru, Ese Brume and so on,
“We have been training hard and I think we are good to go,” she said.
National canoeing coach, Ebenezer Ukwunna, also told NAN at their Jabi Lake training camp that his athletes were putting finishing touches to their training in readiness for the Tokyo Games.
He said, as African champions, the rowing and canoeing team was not going to the Olympics to make up the number but to win medals.
“We are going to the Olympics as African champions. So, we know what is at stake, we know what the country is expecting for us and we are prepared for it.
“Our athletes are African champions and there is no facility they have not handled. We have the support of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, and we are good to go.
“To whom much is given, much is expected. So, we know the nation is expecting us to come back with laurels and we will not disappoint,” the coach said.
Nigeria’s sole taekwondo athlete at the Olympics, Elizabeth Anyanacho, told NAN that the road to her first Games has been full of ups and downs.
She said her recent exposure in terms of attending competitions in Africa and Europe had helped to sharpen her skills.
“I believe that, with the intensive training and exposure, I am going to do well at the Olympics.
“I just need to stick to the instructions of my coaches and stay focused and full of discipline,’’ Anyanacho said.
The last phase of camping for Team Nigeria will hold in Kisarazu, before the team departs for the Games Village in Tokyo.
At the last count, 55 athletes from nine sports — athletics, basketball, badminton, canoe (sprint), rowing, gymnastics, taekwondo, table tennis and wrestling — will be representing Team Nigeria at the Tokyo Games.
The rescheduled Tokyo Olympics holds from July 23 to Aug. 8.