By Femi Atolagbe, Asaba
P resident of the Rowing, Canoeing and Sailing Federation, Rear Admiral Festus Porbeni (retd.), has said he was delighted that rowing featured at a National Sports Festival for the second time at the just concluded Asaba 2022 edition of the national sports fiesta.
The sport first made a showing at the Abuja 2018 NSF and after its absence at Edo 2020, the competition returned in 2022, with the athletes competing at the Grand Hotel, Asaba.
Festus Porbeni, said: “My dream had been to make sure that rowing came to the national sports festival as a compulsory sport, not optional and I started at Abuja, but couldn’t make it work in Edo. I am happy I have done it twice now”.
The retired naval officer averred that the sport can become a gold mine for athletes who prefer to focus on the more popular sports in the country.
“We have 54 medals in the sport. Even football, with all the hype, only gives one gold medal. It is a sport that people should see as a gold mine, with seven gold medals on offer,” he said.
He said the sport was getting more popular and would continue to evolve in years to come.
According to him, “the fact that we are here, that people crossed water to get here to watch the competition means that it’s a bit popular. I have virtually showcased that this sport can be played on any water. Look at Jabi Lake, it is now a popular sport there.
“It is typical of any sport to evolve. We want our stars in Nigeria to go for more competitions, so, they can get higher rankings. We wanted to take them to the Olympics but we couldn’t afford it. We thank the sports ministry for what they’re doing and urge private companies to partner with us. It is a very expensive sport, but if it gets the recognition it deserves, it can be a big thing.”