On the sidelines of the 1st AFN Golden League meet, recently held in Nigeria’s Federal Capital, Abuja, Athletics Africa’s Tunde Eludini caught up with the National High Performance Director, Angie Taylor.
The retired American athlete spoke on varying issues in her new job, and her admiration for, and desire to see Nigerian athletes excel on all fronts.
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A.A: Hi Angie, How has it been since you took over as the national high performance director?
Taylor: The work has been going well but as you know that with every responsibility there are challenges but I am very optimistic. I just arrived from Dubai and I was with the para power-lifting team and we did very well. We had five gold and silver and a bronze there, we also broke records.
I also had a chance to go to Poland as well for the Indoor World Championships and I saw some very good things and promising things in that competition. We did not win a medal but we had some young athletes like Steven Mozia, the Shotput thrower and I think that experience at the tournament will bring him a great deal of success at the Commonwealth Games.
A.A: Talking about challenge, can you let us into what they are?
Taylor: Our challenges are nothing major. They were just with getting things organised and set. We want to get the training centre set up so that the athletes will be housed especially for athletics, in using the stadium to train so nothing major, just the typical things that you go through when you are setting up things that are new.
A.A: The Commonwealth Games is around the corner any hope for Nigeria to do better than it did the last time in New Delhi four years ago?
That’s always the goal; you always want to do better than you did the last time. I think like with working with Taekwondo, boxing and wrestling, they are very, very eager and on point to do very well and like I told you I just from Dubai, the World Championships with the Paralympic team and this a really good first stage to see what it going to be for the team in the Commonwealth.
I can’t imagine them not doing very well, I mean they were outstanding in Dubai and with athletics the federation is working very hard to set up everything so that we can record success at the Commonwealth. So I am very excited for the possibilities for the Commonwealth.
A.A: What is your honest assessment of athletes performances at the first leg of the Golden League in Abuja?
Taylor: The performances of the athletes at the Golden League have been very good and I was here this morning because I was on my way back but I saw some very good performances that happened this morning. I think anytime that you have prelim, then you have a break and then you go back to do the final, you just have to see where the athletes are but overall they have done very well. This just the first one so we have got more to come.
With this being the first one, there are certain things we have got to work out but the next one is going to be stronger, so I am excited. I think anytime you give the athletes opportunity to compete, you can’t go wrong with that so I am looking forward to more opportunities for the athletes to compete and prepare for the Commonwealth.
A.A: Do you think Nigeria has enough talent to occupy top spot in the world ?
Taylor: Nigeria has enough talent, you see so much talent out here. I don’t even think you need to ask that question any more. I keep saying it, there’s a lot of talent here. When I was appointed, all of my colleagues back at the US who work at the universities, kept asking me to send them Nigerian athletes to come run for their universities. So of course the talent is here.
A.A: So how has it been since you arrived in Nigeria?
Taylor: It’s been great; I feel like I am home. This is Nigeria and I had a chance to see the centennial celebration and the show was fabulous. So, I am loving it, I am excited to be here. The possibilities of how far the athletes can go are unbelievable.
A.A: What was your reaction like when you were approached for the Nigeria job?
From the moment I was a approached about it, I was excited you know, when I told my friends in the US about they were like excited for me and were like it was an opportunity of a lifetime because of the potential inherent in this country. So there was never any doubt, I was excited from day one.
A.A: Your take on the appointment of Maurice Greene as Team Nigeria Relay co-ordinator?
Taylor: Maurice Greene as the Team coordinator has been there, done that so the wealth of experience he brings in is great. You can put fast people out there but this is about getting the stick around the track and putting the right people in the right places to get the stick around the track and I think that is where he comes in and he can add to that with his experience.
We have times when have expected Jamaica or USA to win but the sticks dropped and they do not end up winning. That’s where he comes in and so I think he brings a lot to the team. His experience, knowing positioning and knowing how to pass the stick around. He can help the team with the chemistry and the synergy and then after that the sky is the limit
A.A: What role did you play in getting Greene?
Taylor: Anything I can do to make things happen for the athletes I would do it. I am excited, I am honoured and whatever I do I give it my all I give it 100%.
A.A: Your advice to athletes on doping
Taylor: Anytime you have that situation, you just want to educate because sometimes athletes get into trouble but it’s not because they tried to, it just because they are taking some supplements and sometimes the manufacturers do not list out all the ingredients in their labels. So it is just about educating them to understand what really they supplement are about.
A.A: Tell us one word you have learnt in Nigerian language?
Taylor: […chuckles] one word …you know I have learnt to say a couple of words like hello, next time you ask me I will be ready for you.