Nigeria's sole paddler had to leave his coach and kayak behind

RIO DE JANEIRO - Nigeria's first and only Olympic paddler Johnathan AKINYEMI (NGR) is in no doubt about his priorities after leaving his boat and father-turned-coach stranded in Frankfurt Airport on his way to Rio 2016.

“I felt a little bit guilty about abandoning my dad,” AKINYEMI said after training at the Whitewater Stadium. “But I have to say I missed the kayak more."

All three components of the Nigerian canoe slalom team had spent an anxious 36 hours in the German hub after a delayed flight from their home airport of Manchester meant a missed connection to Rio de Janeiro, with all later onward flights fully booked.

AKINYEMI was eventually re-routed via Rome and landed in Brazil on 27 July, but his father John AKINYEMI (NGR) stayed behind with only the kayak for company while he waited for an available flight.

"We were going a little bit mad living in the terminal. We were literally just sat at the ticket desk for what felt like weeks,” said AKINYEMI, who was born and lives in Warrington, England, and qualifies for Nigeria through his father.

AKINYEMI - who finished 21st in the K1 on his Olympic Games debut at London 2012 - was reunited with his father and kayak in time to begin training at the purpose-built venue in Deodoro X-Park late last week. John AKINYEMI (NGR) said it had been a stressful experience for his son.

“It was a major concern for Johnathan because you have a preparation plan and in the end he lost two, three days of training,” he said.

John AKINYEMI has fulfilled the role of coach “on and off” since his son began paddling in 2001 - despite reservations about some elements of the discipline.

“I don't like water, I can't canoe and I can hardly swim,” he said. “So it's not my natural sport, but it's what Johnathan got involved in as a youngster and I've helped him along the way. We really can't afford a coach so I stand in.”

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