Anambra Gov’t rescues ex-tennis star in viral video, NOC, ex-coach react

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The Anambra Government has taken a  former professional tennis champion, Tanya Okpala, seen in a viral video roaming the streets of Awka into custody for rehabilitation.

Mrs Ify Obinabo, Commissioner for Women and Children Affairs, confirmed the intervention of Anambra Government to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday.

The commissioner said that Okpala was evacuated from the street on Sunday night.

Obinabo said the athlete had been moved to a rehabilitation centre where she was already receiving medical attention.

She said that Gov. Chukwuma Soludo and his wife, Nonye, had followed the pathetic story of the lady and promised to give her the best medical and psychological support that would return her to normal life.

“Yes, we have taken her to a rehabilitation centre; her case is a case of drug and frustration and from my interactions with her, she understands she is in a mess and wants to come out of it.

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“She expressed sadness that she could not give her child the type of care she enjoyed under her own parents.

“Mr Governor and First Lady are particularly interested in this case and have promised to do anything possible to make her live a normal life again,” she said.

Reacting to the development, the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) expressed delight over the timely intervention of the Anambra Government in the plight of Okpala.

Tony Nezianya, Public Relations Officer of NOC said Okpala was a tennis champion for many years.

Nezianya described the lady as a national asset that deserved every attention that she could get.

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‘The Olympic movement in Nigeria is deeply saddened by the plight of Tanya Okpala, but we are delighted that the Anambra government has taken charge of the situation,” he told NAN.

Also speaking, Godwin Kienka, Director of International Tennis Academy who tutored Okpala at a time said she was a promising young star who competed and won competitions in age group cadre before progressing to the senior level.

Kienka said Okpala, Jacquelyne Okwueze among others performed so well that they all got scholarships to study in America but she returned to Nigeria around 2007 due to drug related challenges.

He said efforts had been made to normalise the 41 years old Okpala but each time she was taken to rehabilitation centre she escaped.

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The tennis buff advised young athletes and youths generally to avoid peer pressure and to stay off drugs as it always led to catastrophic end.

“Tanya Okpalla was No 1 in the ladies singles  ranking at some point and won several singles and doubles titles including the CBN Senior Championships. 

“Jacquelyne Okwueze is her teammate; she is still in the US as a criminal lawyer.

“I am also grateful to the gentleman who shot the clip and brought her situation to national attention and also the Anambra government that has intervened,” he said.

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