The President, Cycling Federation of Nigeria (CFN), Giandomenico Massari, has said it would be difficult for team Nigeria to win medals at the 111th World Track Cycling Championships.
Four Nigerian female cyclists — Ese Ukpeseraye, Yekeen Tawakalt, Ayuba Grace and Samuel Mary — qualified for the championships, which will take place from 20 to 24 October 2021 in Roubaix, France.
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They will compete in four events, namely 500m Time Trials, Individual Pursuits, Team Sprints and Team Pursuits.
This is the first time ever Nigerian (female) team would qualify for the world championships.
The other African country that qualified for the sporting event is Egypt with one athlete.
Massari said it was a big achievement for Nigeria, which started competing in track cycling two years ago, to qualify for the World Track Cycling Championships.
He spoke at a brief ceremony organised in honour of the athletes at the French Embassy in Abuja.
He said winning medals at the competition would be difficult for the team because the Nigerian athletes would be competing with other countries with a history of over 100 years in cycling.
Massari said, “For us, it is a very big achievement to be qualified for the world championship and we are also intensifying effort to ensure that Nigeria qualifies for the next Olympics.
“We have achieved a lot in the last few years.
“Nigeria was nowhere before in cycling. But today, Nigeria is ranked among the top 10 in the world, particularly for the female team. Now we are trying to consolidate what we have achieved so far.
“However, we have to be realistic. We started competing two years ago in track.
“Many other countries participating in the championship have a history of over 100 years in cycling, particularly in track.
“It is not that the person that is 100 years old is competing in this championship, but it is a sort of transmission of competence, techniques and preparation that we don’t have.
“For us to achieve what we had in two years, you will agree that we have a bright future.
“We are positive but of course you can’t expect the athletes to get any medal when you are competing like you are David and Goliath.
“David won because he used his brain. We can use our brain but it requires more time to consolidate on our gains.
“The fact that we qualified for the world championship and we are top in Africa, you can understand that we are somewhere.”
One of the athletes, Ese Ukpeseraye, said their participation at the championships would add to their knowledge and experience in cycling competitions.
“The ones we have participated in before were not really easy. Now we have qualified for the world championship. It will be tough for us but we will put in our best,” she said.
The French Ambassador to Nigeria, Emmanuelle Blatmann, congratulated the Nigerian athletes for their qualifications.
The envoy, represented by her deputy, Mr Olivier Chatelias, encouraged the sportswomen to put in their best at the championships and hoped that “they will climb the steps of the podium”.