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43 Girls in two weeks National FastPitch Softball Camp in Yenagoa ahead of Los Angeles 2028 Olympics

Posted : 22 April 2024

In the quest to qualify Nigeria for the Softball event at the 2028 Olympic Games, 43 girls from states across the country are in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, for a 15-day first phase camp, with the second phase scheduled to start in July this year.

Baseball and softball are making a return to the Olympics after years of absence. Both have been added to the program for the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles, along with lacrosse, squash, cricket, and flag football, following a vote conducted by the International Olympic Committee in Mumbai, India, last year. Baseball and softball were featured on the program for the 2020 Tokyo Games, returning to the Olympics for the first time since the Beijing Games in 2008. Host Japan won gold medals in both sports. Neither will be part of the 2024 Summer Games in Paris.

The 2028 Summer Games will mark the seventh time baseball has been an official medal sport at the Olympics, following 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2020. Softball made its debut as an official medal sport in 1996 and was also played in 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2020.

As part of efforts to ensure that Nigeria qualifies and actively participates, stakeholders of the sport have swung into action, one of which is the ongoing Fast Pitch Softball camping program for the 43 girls at the Government Secondary School, Ovom, who train at the Samson Siasia Sport Complex in Yenagoa. To supervise the program, officials of the National Fast Pitch Softball are in the Bayelsa State capital to oversee the camping.

The Nigeria Baseball and Softball Association (NBSA), the Embassy of Japan, and the Japan-Africa Baseball and Softball (J-ABS) Foundation last year signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a five-year partnership to focus on what is tagged the “Nigeria Baseballership Development Plan” to develop baseball and softball in the country. As part of the plan, a coach from Japan is also in Yenagoa to help hone the skills of the 43 girls and coaches.

The Acting Secretary-General of the Nigeria Baseball and Softball Association, Mr. Robert Onwunkwe Anthony, says the NBSA decided to start early preparations and groom the girls from an early age to ensure Nigeria makes it to the Olympics, stating that with the program, the future is bright for the sport.

The Chief Scorer with the National Fast Pitch Softball Commission, Dr. James Asagunla, who is a physiologist at the University of Ilorin, notes that the girls are learning and adapting fast to training.

A national Softball Coach, Jenifer Ugo-Obodozie, who guided Nigeria to a silver medal at the Abuja 2003 All Africa Games, says this is the first time preparations are being held early, four years before the Olympics, a departure from the previous fire brigade approach.

One of the local organizers of the Fast Pitch Softball camp, Mr. Opuene Albert Dede, says the 43 girls, aged 14 to 19, from secondary schools from at least 13 states, are being trained by eight national coaches with the aim of reaching their peak by the 2028 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

The officials expressed gratitude to the Government of Bayelsa, especially Governor Douye Diri, the Deputy Governor Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, the Permanent Secretary, State Ministry of Sports, Mrs. Grace Alagoa, and the Director of the State Sports Council, Sir Braveman Wodi, for providing the resources to host the girls, and thanked the people of the state for their warm hospitality towards the girls and the officials during camping.


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