*As tennis clinic takes off in Akure
*As Nduka Odizor, Mary Onyali storms Akure Saturday
By Oluwole Francis
Wife of the Ondo State Governor, Arabinrin Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, Wednesday launched the kick off of the State Summer Tennis Clinic for children between the ages 4-13 at the Township Stadium, Akure.
The very colourful event which was the talk of the ancient community for days attracted the Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who was ably represented by his Deputy, Hon. Agboola Ajayi.
Arabirin Akeredolu who affirmed the readiness of the Akeredolu-led government to make Ondo State the tennis hub in Nigeria also noted that it was high time Ondo State began to produce its own Serena Williams, thereby building future champions of the game in Nigeria and the whole world at large.
Mrs. Akeredolu while observing that Ondo State has in the past produced national and international players like Princess Rolake Olateru Olagbegi, Sir Segun Balogun and the outstanding Nigerian umpire at the Wimbledon, Prince Wale Olateru Olagbegi, regretted the fact that Nigeria has now become a sleeping giant, thus, steps must be taken to retrace the
course of history.
“This clinic is essentially to identify and develop talents in our children. It is important to encourage sports development among youths in the state, particularly at the grassroots level in order to discover and develop potentials and skills of the young ones who are capable of becoming champions.
“The benefits of catching our youths young, especially in sports cannot be over emphasised. Let us look at champions like the Williams sisters: Venue and Serena Williams, who started as young as three years and have gone on to win numerous awards and break glass ceilings. Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Billie Jean King just to mention a few,” she stressed.
“This tennis clinic that we are laying the foundation today is not a government thing. You can give into it. Let nobody wait for Arakunrin to bring money here,” she added.
Mrs. Akeredolu however expressed optimism that the beneficiaries of this project will be empowered to develop independence and confidence through taking on new challenges as well as being mentored into greatness.
In his remark, Hon. Ajayi acknowledged the vision of the First Lady as being deeply rooted with far reaching effect stressing that she has indeed been touching on all the critical aspects of the economy of the state.
Earlier, in his welcome address, Engineer Olumuyiwa Sonuga, who is the chairman of the Main Organising Committee of the clinic, thanked the First Lady for the initiative while urging parents to continue to encourage their children to follow through with the programme, noting that it is a source of gainful employment for them in the future.
In her goodwill message, Mrs. Rolake Olagbegi-Kazim, who flew in from America for the clinic, charged the children to take advantage of the opportunity given them stressing that there are lots of opportunities in the field of tennis.
She challenged parents to be a part of the project as plans are underway for an after school training session for the children.
Also, in her goodwill message, Chief Mrs. Idowu Akinbulumo, the General Manager of the Ondo State Sports Council, urged parents to ensure full participation of their children in the course of the programme.
The event also featured other side attractions which include a jogging exercise led by Arabinrin Akeredolu and an exhibition match between the wife of the Governor and the Deputy Governor, Hon. Agboola Ajayi.
However, former Nigerian whizkid and cerebral tennis prodigy, Nduka ‘The Duke’ Odizor will be arriving the Ondo State capital, Akure, on Saturday. He will be accompanied by five-time Olympian, Chief Mary Onyali and former Zamalek SC of Egypt captain Olajide Fashikun.