Nigeria breaks silence, denies abandoning Olympics rower, Ukogu

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The Nigeria Rowing, Canoe and Sailing Federation says it provided the required assistance to Chierika Ukogu, the country’s sole representative in the women single sculls event of the Rio Olympics.

There has been report that Ukogu made it to the 2016 Olympic Games without any assistance from the federation.
Reports also said she abandoned her education to compete for Nigeria.

But a statement released on Wednesday by the Secretary of the federation, Olubunmi Ola-Oluode, said Ukogu enjoyed full support from the federation under the leadership of Festus Porbeni.

The Federation said it had been providing assistance to Ukogu since she made up her mind to represent Nigeria in 2015.

It said the federation registered Ukogu for 2015 world cup in France and ensured that the International Rowing Federation (FISA) paid for her feeding, hotel, and local transportation along with her coach during the tournament.

The Federation described the campaign on social media about the purported abandonment of the athlete as an attempt to ridicule the federation’s relentless support for Ukogu before, during and after every international tournament.

Mrs. Ola-Oluode however said the decision of the federation to set the record straight was not an attempt to downplay the effort of Ukogu who she described as a patriotic Nigerian.

“There can never be an Ukogu competing at the 2016 Olympics without the Nigeria Rowing, Canoe and Sailing Federation under Rear Admiral Festus Porbeni,” the statement said.

“The federation registered her for Olympics qualifiers in Tunisia last October with all expenses paid. The president also paid her allowance for this trip as well. She didn’t pay a dime for this trip.”

She explained that the federation gave the athlete a letter of introduction to the United States of America federation not because they wanted her to use it against the country or the federation.

The letter the scribe said was for Ukogu to get the training, support from her club in the USA since they have one of the best coaches and equipment in the world.

“Immediately she qualified, we got her International Olympic Committee scholarship for ten months, after which the Africa Olympic Commission also gave her scholarship for support towards the Olympics,” the statement said.

“We were together in Swiss, a trip that was sponsored by the Ministry. She didn’t pay a dime for her ticket to Olympic.”

“All she has gotten has been through the federation. Even when Nigeria Olympics Committee said they had exhausted their slot for IOC scholarship, the federation approached FISA and IOC who directed the NOC to request for additional slot to accommodate her.”

She lauded the support of the Ministry of Youth and Sports for Ukogu and her personal trainer as she dispelled insinuations that the US based athlete bought her ticket to Rio.

“The Federal Ministry of sports sponsored her to the Games and paid her allowance and that of her personal trainer in full,” the statement said.

The federation slammed reports that Ukogu abandoned her education just to compete for Nigeria at the Olympics, saying it does not joke with athletes’ welfare.

“She never abandoned her medical study for any sport. She started her medical school in New York city on the 14th August 2016,” the statement said.

“She was staying in Philadelphia but now relocated to New York for her studies.”

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  • Chika Raphael Christian

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