FRANCIS OBIKWELU, the Portuguese Olympic 100 metres silver medallist, has been chosen by the sports education department of the Ministry for Education as the face of a new motivational campaign being launched in Portugal’s schools.
Obikwelu, Nigerian by birth but a Portuguese citizen since 2001, powered past the field of big name sprinters in the Olympic 100 metres final last summer, and only just missed out on gold to the US’s Justin Gaitlin who ran a personal best.
The 6’3″, 26-year-old runner is undoubtedly a household name now. A very good choice then it seems for the new “megasprinter” campaign that will cover 1,300 junior and secondary schools, reaching more than 800,000 pupils.
Obikwelu commented: “Portugal needs athletes, not only footballers.” He also jokingly told the media that he hoped the project would result in a young Portuguese athlete beating his record some day.
In the school phase of the programme, the 16 fastest sprinters from each school will be selected to compete at regional level, progressing on to national finals at which just 16 of each sex and discipline will compete. The project will be overseen by PE teachers, but the regional and national phases will be supervised by representatives from the Portuguese Athletics Federation.
The Portuguese Olympic Committee is another partner in the project and, according to its president, Vicente Moura: “It is necessary to reverse the tendency for Portugal to be one of the European countries with the least sports activities.” For the Secretary of State for Education, Diogo Feio, the “megasprinter” campaign also serves “to fight against the abandonment and wastage of school opportunities, as well as helping to spot young talent, possibly even the future Olympic athletes for 2012.”