Fifteen countries were able to beat the deadline set by the World Taekwondo for the maiden Nigeria Taekwondo Open set to kick off on Friday at the Abuja International Stadium.
Also, contingents from Saudi Arabia and United States are the first teams to arrive Abuja on Monday for the three-day as organizers are putting finishing touches to the preparation for the world ranking tournament.
There will be live telecast of the fights on YouTube. Nigerian athletes have started talking tough ahead of the championship as national team stars like Michael Akande and Abdullah Adegoke believe the foreigners would not dominate.
A confident Akande said: “I expect to win a gold medal at the Nigeria Open, and if there is something beyond that; then I will go for it too.
“But right now, it is only the gold medal that I am training hard for, and it is the gold medal that I shall win.
“The Nigeria Open is a very good opportunity since it is taking place right here in the country [Nigeria].
“So I encourage the local athletes to utilize this opportunity well to register and compete in the Nigeria Open 2019. We have foreigners that are coming here to compete with us. We should not allow other countries take the glory. Let us make Nigeria proud.”
Adegoke, a former national youth champion, who was a quarterfinalist at the National Sports Festival in Abuja, says he is hoping to right the wrong that befell him at the national festival.
“My last tournament was at the National Sports Festival held in Abuja. I learnt a lesson that I will never ever forget as I lost in the quarterfinals after the brutal round robin stage.
“It was the most painful loss of my career. I was so depressed after the 2018 National Sports Festival because I did not win a medal. But the importance of the Nigeria Open, especially as it is a historic event, motivated me to train again and register for the event.
“Now I am training very hard so that I would not lose again, and I will keep aiming to go higher and higher in my career.”
He added: “I am a bit anxious because I know that every competitor has his own skill and way of fighting just to win.
“I have fought with so many taekwondo athletes with different skills and I know I might probably be facing yet other competitors with probably any skill set at the Nigeria Open.
“But that will not make me withdraw from my vow of making history at the Nigeria Open. It is going to be fun meeting with them, competing with them, making more friends, making history, and as well winning against them.”
A total of 150 participants from 15 countries are expected to feature in the tournament that will run from February 8 to 10. Some of the participating countries are: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Congo DRC, France, Gabon, Ghana, Guadeloupe, Mali, Niger Republic, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Togo and US.