Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, on Wednesday, generously rewarded athletes that made the state proud at the National Sports Festival held in April this year in Edo State.
An elated Governor Diri announced a total package of N195 million for the gold, sliver and bronze medallists as well as the coaches and secretaries of the teams.
Bayelsa, for the first time, placed third on the final medals table behind Delta and Edo, a feat that surpassed its fourth place recorded since 2006 at the games held in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
In a press release by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, the governor, who received the state’s contingent inside the Executive Council Chambers of the Government House, Yenagoa, said the gesture was in appreciation of the honour they brought to the state.
For every individual gold medallist, Governor Diri announced a cash reward of N1m while team gold medallists got N500,000 each with outstanding swimmer, Ifiezibe Gagbe, getting over N10 reward having won eight gold, two silver and five bronze medals.
Gold medal winning coaches and secretaries were also rewarded with N500,000 each while individual silver medalists smiled home with N350,000, team silver medallists N250,000 each and silver medal winning coaches and secretaries N300,000 each.
The reward for individual bronze medallists was N300,000, team bronze medallists N100,000 while bronze medal winning coaches and secretaries got N200,000 each.
The largesse also captured non- medal winning athletes who were appreciated with N50,000 each likewise their coaches and secretaries who got same amount.
The governor urged the athletes to reciprocate the gesture by improving on their performance in the next festival and assured that the government would not relent in promoting sports at all levels.
He said: “We appreciate you for bringing honour to the state. As you know, sports is no longer a social event. It is now a money-spinning business if you get committed to it.
“We pray that you would not end at just the national sports festival. Your Commissioner is a world champion in wrestling. We pray that you follow those footsteps.
“Your next sports festival in 2022 began the day Edo 2020 ended. I’m sure that if you go to Asaba 2022 with the same passion, patriotism and commitment you exhibited in Edo, you would surpass your performance. That is why I charge you not to relent in order to go beyond your current position.”
The governor also announced the adoption of two Bayelsa-born athletes in line with the “Adopt an Athlete Initiative” of the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare.
The adopted athletes are Tokyo Olympic-bound multiple African and Commonwealth champion in wrestling, Blessing Oborududu, and 17-year-old sprinter, Tima Godbless, who won a silver medal in the women’s 200 meters and bronze in the 4×100 meters relay at the festival.
Earlier in his remarks, the Commissioner for Youths and Sports Development, Hon. Daniel Igali, stated that with 568 athletes at the festival, Bayelsa won 56 gold, 57 silver and 58 bronze medals to place third.
Igali commended the governor for his exemplary motivation and commitment to youth and sports development.
He said the athletes were determined to bring more glory to the state and appealed for provision of more sporting infrastructure for them such as buses to convey them to training.
“We went to the National Sports Festival in Edo and came back with 56 gold, 57 silver and 58 bronze medals, placing third overall.
“The story about the sports festival was about Bayelsa. Not only did we punch a bit above our weight, we also had the athlete with the highest gold medals. She won eight gold medals.
“We assure you that when the time comes, beginning today with your full backing, we would go to Asaba 2022 and make you proud again.”
A minute silence was observed in honour of an athlete, Samson Ndukwe, who won gold at the festival but passed on before the reception for Team Bayelsa.