Nigeria’s Top 12 Athletics Performers in 2014 (PART I)

21 Oct Top 12 Part I Feature Image copy

Team Nigeria athletes put up a commendable outing during the 2014 Athletics season. Some athletes stood out based on their individual performances, personal records and medals won in their various events. Here’s a countdown of the TOP 12 athletics performers whom we think stood out exceptionally well for the Green-White-Green of Nigeria:

12. CHINWE OKORO:

It was a close call between Okoro and fellow discus thrower and shot putter, Stephen Mozia on who to take this position, but Okoro’s outstanding performance to win GOLD and defend her African title from 2012 by throwing a Personal Best (PB) and Championship Record (CR) of 59.79m in the discus throw stood her out – she had gone into the championships with a Season’s Best (SB) of 57.83m and  PB of 58.25m. She also won the silver medal in the shot put with an SB of 16.40m, while Mozia got bronze in the men’s discus (57.11m) and 4th place in the shot put!

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 11. AMAKA OGOEGBUNAM:

After an injury plagued 2013, Ogoegbunam came back by winning the GOLD medal in the 400m hurdles at the Nigerian Championships in 56.77s. At the Commonwealth Games, she qualified for the final where she would have run a PB but was disqualified alongside South Africa’s Theron Nel. She made up for this disappointment by winning the silver medal in a PB of 55.46s at the African Championships. Her PB is ranked 23rd in the world this year.

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 10. TYRON AKINS:

He came into national recognition at the Nigerian Trials after winning the 110m hurdles in 13.66s as one of several newly recruited Americans to Team Nigeria. He inspired a 1-2-3 finish for Nigeria at the African Championships where he won GOLD in 13.57s ahead of Alex Al-Ameen and Martins Oghieriakhi, which turned out to be his first silverware for his adopted country. He is also the first Nigerian to win the event since national record holder, Williams Erese’s triumph in 1996.

He finally capped his season with an SB of 13.48s to finish 5th at the Continental Cup. Akins gets on the list because of his steady progression of his time for the country throughout the season – can he get back to his PB of 13.25s set in 2008 as a US athlete? Only time will tell – we wish him all the best repping Team Nigeria.

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 9.  WOMEN’S 4X100M RELAY TEAM:

The women’s sprint relay team opened their 2014 campaign by finishing 4th at the inaugural IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas with an SB of 42.67s, coming within a hundredth of a second of the Bronze!, That team included Team Nigeria stalwarts Blessing Okagbare and Gloria Asunmu, and a couple of first-timers, Francesca Okwara & Dominique Duncan.

Since then, the returning Lawretta Ozoh replaced Okwara on the team, and led by Okagbare, they raced   to a Commonwealth Games silver medal in 42.92s behind Jamaica, before capping their season with a fifth consecutive title at the African Championships in 43.65s, proving their dominance in Africa in the event.

Special commendation should go to Duncan, who capped off a good first season for Team Nigeria with not just these two relay medals, but a surprise African 200m Bronze medal, ahead of teammate and defending champion Asumnu.

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8. AMAECHI MORTON:

Morton is Nigeria’s fastest 400m hurdles athlete in recent years. He is the national champion in the event and his time of 49.65s was enough for a 5th place finish at the Commonwealth Games. Though he lost his African title to South Africa’s Cornel Fredericks, he was able to take the silver medal by breaking the 49s barrier for the first time this season with an SB of 48.92s at the African Championships. Finally, he raced to a 5th place finish in 49.65s at the Continental Cup. His SB is ranked 18th in the world this year.

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 7. MARK JELKS:

Just like Akins, Jelks came into national prominence when he emerged the surprise winner of the men’s 100m event in a time of 10.23s, beating tournament favourite, Ogho-Oghene Egwero to the title in Calabar – he has perhaps been the most impressive of the newly recruited American athletes. Tipped as a potential medal winner at the Commonwealth Games, he finished 5th in a much improved time of 10.13s.

At the African Championships, he had the fastest time in the semis in 10.16s before eventually losing out on the GOLD medal to surprise winner, Cote d’Ivoire’s Hua Wilfried Koffi, despite running an SB of 10.07s (Koffi won with 10.05s). He Jelks also anchored the men’s 4x100m relay team to a GOLD medal finish at the same Championships in 38.80s.

At the Continental Cup, Jelks narrowly missed out on a podium place as he finished 4th in the 100m in 10.12s, before anchoring Team Africa to a 3rd place finish in men’s 4x100m relay. His SB is ranked 35th in the world this year. Although he didn’t win any individual medal at global championships,  he’s been amongst the top five finishers in all his individual races this year and has helped increase Nigeria’s rank in the 100m internationally this year.

Can he become the first Nigerian to run sub-10 seconds since Fasuba ran 9.85s in 2006? He will likely need to get back to his PB (9.99s in 2007) or beyond to make either the World Championship or Olympic final in the next 2 years!

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Watch out in the coming days for Part II of Nigeria’s Top 12 Athletics Performers for 2014, where we will count down from No. 6 to No. 1 – Can you guess which athletes they are and the correct order? Look out for our game to predict the correct rankings on our social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) for a chance to win AIRTIME!

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Another promising Nigerian switches allegiances to Bahrain – Why Did Nigeria Let Them Go? (Part II)

16 Oct (Photo credit: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

The tragic trend of Nigeria’s “Brawn Drain” looks set to continue unabated. Another promising Nigerian athlete who has been lost to Bahrain this year is Abbas Abubakar, who first came to national reckoning at the 2012 National Sports Festival (NSF) in Nigeria, finishing second in the 400m in a distant 47.13s behind Orukpe Erayokan (46.27s).

Less than 2 years later, Abubakar ran 46.20s to claim a Bronze medal at the 2014 World Junior Championships in July, and has now followed that up with an Asian Games  Silver medal with a time of 45.62s. In the semis he set a new PB of 45.17s, making him the 4th fastest junior (U-20 athlete) in the world this year, and faster than any Nigerian senior athlete since 2008, when Saul Weigopwa ran 45.02s at the Beijing Olympics!

Abbas Abubakar after winning World Junior Bronze for Bahrain at Oregon 2014. (Photo credit: Kevin Morris)

Abbas Abubakar after winning World Junior Bronze for Bahrain at Oregon 2014.
(Photo credit: Kevin Morris)

Abbas Abubakar collecting his Silver medal at the 2014 Asian Games.  (Photo credit: Xinhua/Lin Yiguang)(mcg)

Abbas Abubakar collecting his Silver medal at the 2014 Asian Games.
(Photo credit: Xinhua/Lin Yiguang)(mcg)

According to the IAAF President Lamine Diack in 2004, “The trend of African athletes representing other countries is bound to continue. If we don’t build an elite programme to take care of the future of our best athletes, we will lose them”.

10 years later, those words still hold true. Whilst we are busy scouting America for athletes with questionable Nigerian roots to make our team, our former athletes are beating our recruited athletes with some ease. The just concluded IAAF Continental Cup is an example, where the likes of Qatar’s Femi Ogunode and Bahrain’s Kemi Adekoya both achieved podium positions for Team Asia-Pacific, while no Nigerian athlete managed to reach the podium for Team Africa.

Adekoya sets a PB of 54.59s to win the 2014 Doha Diamond League 400mH &  Ogunode after setting a new Asian Games Record (9.93s). (Photo Credits: Getty Images)

Adekoya sets a PB of 54.59s to win the 2014 Doha Diamond League 400mH &
Ogunode sets a new Asian Games Record (9.93s). (Photo Credits: Getty Images)

In the same way there has been some outcry in Nigeria over the naturalization of American athletes to the team this year, native Asian athletes are now voicing their complaints over the increasing number of African-born competitors at the Asian Games, who they claim have a physical advantage, and are likely stunting the development of their home grown athletes, who may no longer receive the investment that their African recruits are receiving.

China’s Su Bingtian who won silver in the 100m at the 2014 Asian Games in 10.10s (way behind Ogunode’s new Asian record of 9.93s) said, “I think it’s unfair because they are taller and have a longer stride. We are at a physical disadvantage.”

For those who say ‘what is the problem with recruiting athletes since other countries are doing the same?’, it is pertinent to note that the Americans switching to Nigeria and the East Africans switching to Asian countries are doing so because their countries are so STACKED with talent that they will never make the team. Meanwhile the Nigerians switching to Qatar and Bahrain are not switching because they can’t make the Nigerian team…in fact it is exactly the opposite, they are already better than anyone in Team Nigeria, including the recruited Americans, within a year of making the switch!

Nigerian sprint legend Davidson Ezinwa recently weighed in on the subject of Nigeria recruiting athletes from America and puts it aptly: “Switching their allegiance is not the problem, the problem is the quality of athletes that we get.”

If the likes of Abbas Abubakar can drop his 400m time from 47.13s to 45.17s in less than 2 years by merely switching countries, perhaps it is time for Nigeria to focus on how to create quality athletes from the embarrassment of riches we have in Athletics talent right at home – for example, the only man who beat him at the 2012 Sports Festival, Orukpe, is now part of Nigeria’s 4x400m team but he has still not broken 46 seconds in the individual 400m!

The Rio Olympics is just less than 2 years away – can Nigeria discover and develop our next crop of athletes to take the world by storm by then? There is still time – but only just!

Abbas Abubakar competing for Bahrain at the 2014 World Juniors. (Photo credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)

Abbas Abubakar competing for Bahrain at the 2014 World Juniors.
(Photo credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)

Abbas Abubakar sets PB of 45.17s in the 400m Semis at the 2014 Asian Games (Photo credit: AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

Abbas Abubakar sets PB of 45.17s in the 400m Semis at the 2014 Asian Games
(Photo credit: AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

(Photo credit: AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

(Photo credit: AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

(Photo credits: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images and Mauirunner.com)

(Photo credits: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images and Mauirunner.com)

 

 

 

Qatar’s Ogunode & Bahrain’s Adekoya win Double GOLD at Asian Games – Why Did Nigeria Let Them Go? (Part I)

9 Oct Adekoya sets a PB of 54.59s to win the 2014 Doha Diamond League 400mH & 
Ogunode sets a new Asian Games Record (9.93s). (Photo Credits: Getty Images)

The world has witnessed the cross-carpeting of African athletes from their home countries to others from time past till date, and Nigeria seems to have a high statistic in this regard. The rate at which the continent’s most populous nation is losing her world class athletes to other countries, especially the oil rich ones in Asia, is alarming and should be a matter of concern for all sport loving Nigerians.

In the first two days alone of the recently concluded 17th Asian Games in South Korea, African-born athletes bagged five gold medals in seven races. Two of such medallists were Nigerian born Femi Ogunode of Qatar and recently naturalized Kemi Adekoya of Bahrain.

Ogunode went on to become double Asian Games record holder in both the 100m and 200m (9.93s & 20.14s), while Adekoya claimed a 400m and 400m Hurdles double (51.59s & 55.77s) – she also ran Asian Games records in the heats of both races (51.11s & 55.09s), meaning that both she and Ogunode have run faster than any Nigerian athletes in their respective disciplines this season, American recruits included!

Femi Ogunode after setting a new 100m Asian Record at 2014 Asian Games (Photo Credit: Jason Reed, Reuters)

Femi Ogunode after setting a new 100m Asian Record at 2014 Asian Games
(Photo Credit: Jason Reed, Reuters)

Interestingly, Ogunode became the second “Asian” in history to break the 10s mark in the 100m after Samuel Francis, also a Nigerian-born Qatari, first did it seven years ago in 9.99s. Francis was a finalist in the race but finished 8th after he looked to be suffering from a leg injury. 

Ogunode was born in Nigeria but acquired Qatari nationality in 2009, and promptly won a 200m/400m double at the 2010 Asian Games (20.43s & 45.12s). After serving a two-year ban for doping, he returned to competition in January 2014 and he kicked off  the season well with a 60m World Indoor Championship bronze medal in March. He then ran a wind-assisted 20.06s in Bulgaria, before coming 3rd twice for Team Asia-Pacific in the 100m and 200m event at the IAAF Continental Cup in Marrakech.

Qatar's Femi Ogunode after winning the 100m at the 2014 Asian Games in 9.93s.  China's Su Bingtian Bronze and  Japan's Kei Takase took Silver and Bronze respectively.  (Photo Credit: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images AsiaPac)

Qatar’s Femi Ogunode after winning the 100m at the 2014 Asian Games in 9.93s.
China’s Su Bingtian Bronze and Japan’s Kei Takase took Silver and Bronze respectively.
(Photo Credit: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images AsiaPac)

Adekoya just began competing for Bahrain in 2014, after years of impressive, yet seemingly unheralded progression in Nigeria. She established herself as a hurdler at national level in Nigeria in 2011, placing 5th at the Nigerian Championships. In 2012, she was runner-up at the Nigerian Olympic trials, and repeated the feat at the 2013 World Championship trials,  setting a new PB of 55.30s (putting her in the world’s top 30), and finishing runner-up in both years to Ajoke Odumosu, Nigeria’s leading hurdler. 

Kemi Adekoya winning the 400m Hurdles final for Bahrain at the 2014 Asian Games in 55.77s (Photo Credit: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images AsiaPac)

Kemi Adekoya winning the 400m Hurdles final for Bahrain at the 2014 Asian Games in 55.77s
(Photo Credit: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images AsiaPac)

In 2014, she marked her debut in the Diamond League circuit by defeating the entire elite 400m hurdles field in a surprise win and world lead of 54.59s, setting a new National Record (NR), this time, not for Nigeria, but her newly adopted country, Bahrain. Her rise to prominence has been impressive, and one must wonder if Nigeria could not have done more to keep one of the nation’s brightest young athletes. Surely if the funds being showered on the likes of Nigeria’s recently naturalized Americans were showered on the likes of Adekoya, she could not possibly have been seduced by Middle Eastern oil dollars?

Bahrain's Kemi Adekoya wins the 400m at the 2014 Asian Games in 51.59s. Vietnam’s Thi Lan Quach (52.06) and India’s Poovamma Machettira (52.36) claimed silver and bronze respectively (Photo Credit: Aidan Payne/ DTNN)

Bahrain’s Kemi Adekoya wins the 400m at the 2014 Asian Games in 51.59s. Vietnam’s Thi Lan Quach (52.06) and India’s Poovamma Machettira (52.36) claimed silver and bronze respectively
(Photo Credit: Aidan Payne/ DTNN)

While there is a common misconception that these athletes have ‘betrayed’ their fatherland, the question that we really ought to ask ourselves as a nation is, WHY DID WE LET THEM GO? These athletes have not donned the colors of other nations out of un-patriotism – they have done so seeking to make a living from the sport they love, a living that they could not possibly make under the current conditions of the sport in Nigeria.

Tune in next week for Part II of this tragic tale of Nigeria’s “Brawn Drain” – why are we letting our best talents switch to other countries in the prime of their careers?

(Photo Credit: Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters)

(Photo Credit: Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters)

(Photo Credit: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images AsiaPac)

(Photo Credit: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images AsiaPac)

(Photo Credit: Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters)

(Photo Credit: Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters)

(Photo Credit: Mohamed Farag/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

(Photo Credit: Mohamed Farag/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

(Photo credit: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images AsiaPac)

(Photo credit: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images AsiaPac)

(Photo credit: AP)

(Photo credit: AP)

Gyang defies the rain to defend Lagos International Beach Marathon Title

2 Oct The female athletes about to kick off their race at the 2014 Lagos International Beach Marathon

It was a wet but happy morning for Kaduna state born Emmanuel Gyang at the 2014 Lagos Beach Marathon as he easily  defended his title when he crossed the finish line in the 10km race ahead of eighty-five other athletes in a time of 38 minutes.

Speaking to Making of Champions (MoC) before his race, Gyang said his aim was to defend his title and improve on his time from last year, knowing there would be stiffer competition this year with the bar of the competition being raised. Gyang, who came alongside his elder brother and training partner, Danjuma, added that he would be much happier if they both got to win something at the competition.

The race started at 10am, 2 hours behind schedule, perhaps as a result of a heavy downpour of rain. The Special Guest of Honour, the Eti-Osa Local Government Chairman, Honourable Olanrewaju Elegushi flagged off the event by starting the race with the athletes, but pulling out 20 seconds into the race, jokingly saying the athletes didn’t wait for him. 

The president and organizer of the event, Barrister Philips Ogbuesi stated that this year’s edition had been challenging because most people and organizations would not sponsor or partner with them due to their belief that most organisers of such events in Nigeria often fail to put up a show to match the standards promised. He added that the economic situation of the country has not helped matters.

On the low turn-out of participants at an event where over 400 participants were expected, Barrister Ogbuesi said the rain may have been a major factor. He also added that the number of officials had increased from twenty-five last year to thirty-eight this year, most of whom were from the Lagos State Amateur Athletics Association (AAA).

He said, “The vision is to give room for growth, which would allow the presentation of these athletes on the international scene, and also allow international athletes to come and participate in about two years’ time. It’s the first and only beach marathon race in the country, and our passion is to promote peace and unity amongst Nigerian youths through engaging them in different sporting activities.”

There was some drama in the female category, as the winner, Olamide Oluwaseun was disqualified for bridging the rules (allegedly running outside of the agreed course) – she misses out on her first win, after coming third in the two previous editions. Her disqualification meant the first runner-up Muibat Ogunkoya, a cousin to former Nigerian 400m  queen, Falilat Ogunkoya, became the winner while third placed Olumudi Aderonke, was promoted to the second position.

Still panting after her race, Aderonke  said she was very happy to have won something from the race, because this was her first time of competing at a beach marathon race.

“I have come third twice and second once at the Obudu mountain race. I also represented the country last year in China at a half-marathon where I won the 10km.” She also has competed in the 10,000m at the 2012 National Sports Festival, where she came 10th representing Delta State.

Other sport icons present at the event were Nigeria’s first female National Coach Amelia Edet (retired), Technical Director of Lagos State Amateur Athletics Association (AAA), Mr. Tony Osheku, Nigeria’s former (2013) 400m champion,  Noah Akwu, and some members of the AAA.

Dancers, musicians and comedians were also there to entertain the guests and athletes after the race. In this third edition of the event, the prize money listed for the winner was raised from ₦75,000 last year to ₦100,000, while the first and second runners-up are to pocket ₦50,000 and ₦25,000 respectively.

The Lagos International Beach Marathon is used to mark Nigeria’s yearly independence as a country and also create awareness on the scourge of cervical cancer amongst Nigerian women. Another objective of the race is to provide a new platform for sports, recreation, tourism and charity as a vehicle for peace building. The event was organized by the Community Agenda for Peace in collaboration with the Combat Cervical Cancer.

The female athletes about to kick off their race at the 2014 Lagos International Beach Marathon

The female athletes about to kick off their race at the 2014 Lagos International Beach Marathon

Emmanuel Gyang, 2014 Lagos International Beach Marathon Champion successfully defends his title from 2013!

Emmanuel Gyang, 2014 Lagos Int’l Beach Marathon Champion successfully defends his 2013 title!

Makwala leads African 4x400m men to glorious finish as Europe dominates IAAF Continental Cup

15 Sep LaShawn Merritt & Isaac Makwala

The 2014 IAAF Continental Cup ended on a high for Team Africa despite finishing third in the final standings of the competition, which came to a close on Sunday at the Le Grande Stade in Marrakech, Morocco.

The four continents which featured in the two-day meeting were Asia-Pacific, the Americas, Europe and hosts, Africa. The Europeans led by a mile, amassing 447.5 points overall while the Americas followed in second place with 390.0 points. Africa was third with 339.0 while the Asian-Pacific team settled for fourth with a total of 257.5points.

Some of the major highlights of the event include the men and women’s 100m races which provided some excitement even in the absence of the continent’s top two female athletes in the event, Blessing Okagbare and Murielle Ahouré. Veronica Campbell-Brown was in awesome form as she blew away the rest of the field in the women’s 100m, taking the title with a time of 11.08s, after her Diamond League triumph two weeks ago in Zurich.

Team mate and world No.2, Michelle Lee-Ahye who recently returned from a brief hiatus owing to injury took second with 11.25s while European double sprint champion, Dafne Schippers placed third in 11.26s. Team Africa’s Marie-Josee Ta Lou of Cote d’Ivoire and Gloria Asumnu were fourth and sixth respectively in 11.28s and 11.37s.

The men’s 100m was an explosive race with the spoils being shared among European champion, James Dasaolu (10.03s), Mike Rodgers (10.04s) and Nigerian born Qatari sprinter Femi Ogunode who posted a Personal Best (PB) of 10.04s. Nigeria and Team Africa’s Mark Jelks took fourth with 10.12s while teammate and the continent’s fastest man, Hua Wilfried Koffi was unable to replicate the form that saw him scoop the sprint double a month ago, finishing a distant seventh 10.22s.

The Americas led the 4x100m relays as Campbell-Brown anchored the female team to a top place with a time of 42.44s, while the African team comprising of Gloria Asumnu, Dominique Duncan, Ta Lou and Justine Palframan was disqualified. It was the same story in the men’s event as the team comprising of Kim Collins, Nesta Carter, Michael Rodgers and Richard Thompson took the race with a scorching PB of 37.97s. The African team, which was made up of the Nigerian quartet of Jelks, Obinna Metu, Edward Monzavous and Ogho-Oghene Egwero, clocked 39.10s to take third.

Schippers coasted to victory in the women’s 200m in 22.28s, Ta Lou placed fifth with a PB of 22.78s while Duncan finished seventh with 23.63s, same position as Koffi in the men’s event. The Americas pair of Alonso Edward and Rasheed Dwyer clocked 19.98s in the men’s race, making it the second time ever at this competition that two men have gone sub-20 in the event. Ogunode picked another bronze in the event.

The men’s triple jump event ended with a PB for winner, Benjamin Compaore (17.48m) and National Record (NR) for Mokoena (17.35m). Nigeria’s Tosin Oke narrowly missed out on a place on the podium with a fourth place finish, posting a jump of 16.89m. African and Commonwealth champion, Ese Brume had to settle for fifth position in the women’s long jump event with a leap of 6.34m. Europe’s Éloyse Lesueur won the event with 6.66m as world No.1, Tianna Bartoletta was relegated to third position with 6.45m.                 

Stephen Mozia secured seventh position in the men’s discus throw with a distance of 57.31m in the event was won by Europe’s Gerd Kanter in 64.46m, while Chinwe Okoro finished sixth with a throw of 16.35m in the women’s shot put event. She took seventh position a day earlier in the discus event, recording a throw of 52.30m. African 110 hurdles champion, Tyrone Akins ran a Season’s Best (SB) of 13.48s to place fifth in his event while teammate, Juan De Vries finished in eighth position. Sergey Shubenkov (13.23s), Ronnie Ash (13.25s) and William Sharman (13.25s) emerged the top three in the event.

Nigerian champion, Folashade Abugan finished sixth in the 400m but Zambia’s Kabange Mupopo was faster, securing the fourth position with a PB and NF of 50.87s, which was a remarkable feat achieved by the footballer turned sprinter. Mupopo is certainly one to watch out for in the near future!

Despite the European invasion, there were flashes of brilliance from some of Team Africa’s representatives. First on the list is Cornel Fredericks outstanding performance in the men’s 400m hurdles on Day 1 of the competition. There was no slowing down the African and Commonwealth champion who raced to his third international title in 2014 in 48.34s, relegating the likes of Javier Culson to third position. His fellow African partner, Chris Morton placed fifth in 49.65s.

Another spectacular performance was the 1-2 finish in the men’s 800m as Botswana’s Nijel Amos and Mohammed Aman outpaced their rivals to win the men’s 800m. Amos, the African and Commonwealth champion took the event in 1:44.88s, while his Ethiopian counterpart followed with 1:45.34s.

Makwala was impressive in the 400m, following world No.2, Lashawn Merritt closely with 44.84s. The American and Diamond League winner took the race in 44.60s. More outstanding though was the Batswana’s feat in the 4x400m as his second leg run turned out to be the defining moment of the race, as he took over the lead from the Americas. Third and anchor leg runners, Saviour Kombe and Van Niekerk consolidated on his performance to gift the hosts a befitting gold medal in the final event of the competition with a PB of 3:00.02s. The Europeans (3:00.10s) followed while the Americas and Asian-Pacific teams placed third and fourth respectively in 3:02.78s and 3:03.77s. 

In the women’s category, the Jamaican led team raced to first position with a world of 3:20.93s, followed by Europe(3:24.12s) while the African team comprising of Mupopo, Abugan, Patience Okon George and Ada Benjamin posted a PB of  3:25.51s to place third.

Other Africans who won their events include Egypt’s Ihab Abdelrahman El Sayed in the javelin throw (85.44m), Isiah Kiplangat Koech in the men’s 5000m (13:26.86s), Eunice Sum in the women’s 800m (1:58.21s), Genzebe Dibaba in the women’s 3000m (8:57.53s) and Jairus Kipchoge Birech in the 3000m steeplechase men (8:13.18).

Team Nigeria & Zambia’s Mupopo in Team Africa’s 4x400m @ Continental Cup!

13 Sep IMG_0675 copy

Team Nigeria’s trio of Folashade Abugan, Patience Okon George and Ada Benjamin will be aiming to end the season on a high as members of Team Africa’s women’s 4x400m relay team at the IAAF Continental Cup this weekend in Marrakech.

Okon George , Regina George, Benjamin, Abugan won a fourth consecutive continental title for Nigeria during last month’s African Championships in Morocco with a time of 3.28.87s, ahead of Kenya (3:32.26s) and Botswana (3:40.28s).

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However Regina was excluded from the team and will be replaced by silver medallist at the Championships, Kabange Mupopo of Zambia who posted the same time as Abugan (51.21s) in the 400m final but had to settle for second place via a photo finish. Interestingly, Mupopo is also the team captain for Zambia’s senior national football team, the ‘She-polopolo’!

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Getting to the podium this weekend will be the final icing on the cake for the Nigerian athletes, two of whom (Abugan & Okon George) won bronze at the inaugural IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas, silver at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow with a time of 3:24.71s, behind Jamaica’s 3:23.82s, and then gold at the African Championships.

The Nigerian team ranks third on the 2014 IAAF Rankings with a Season’s Best (SB) of 3:23.41s behind the USA (3:21.73s) and Jamaica (3:23.26s). Abugan and Mupopo jointly hold the 21st position in the world, having posted 51.21s as their fastest times this season. Abugan clocked the time twice to emerge National and African champion.

Okon George is 25th in the world with 51.29s while Benjamin occupies the 44th spot with a Personal Best (PB) of 51.68s, which she ran in the heats of the 400m in Marrakech.

Team Africa will go against a strong Americas field comprising of world leader Francena McCorory USA (49.48s) and the Jamaican trio of world No. 4 and Diamond League Trophy winner, NovleneWilliams-Mills (50.05s), Commonwealth Champion, Stephenie Ann McPherson (No. 5 with 50.12s) and Christine Day (No. 6 with 50.16s). The USA and Jamaican teams finished ahead of Nigeria at the IAAF Relays, while Jamaica dominated the event in Glasgow, with Nigeria following in second.

The European team is made up of Italian quartermiler, Libania Grenot (No. 10 with 50.55s), Ukranian Olha Zemlyak (No. 20 with 51.07s), Indira Terrero (No. 32 with 51.38s) and Malgorzata Holub (No. 59 with 51.84s). The reserve athletes are Elena Korobkina of Russia and Antoinette Nana Djimou of France.

Asia-Pacific will be represented by the Australian team which ranks 20th in the world with an SB of 3:30.27s. Members of the squad are Anneliese Rubie (No. 93 with 52.35s), Jessica Thornton (No. 112 with 52.50s), Kendra Hubbard, Lyndsay Pekin with Lauren Wells and Alex Hulley in reserve.

The IAAF Continental Cup will be taking place in Marrakech, Morocco THIS WEEKEND (Sept 13th & 14th), and Folashade Abugan, Patience Okon George, Ada Benjamin and Kabange Mupopo (ZAM),  will be representing Team Africa in the women’s 4x400m on Sunday Sept 14th at 8.40pm!

Day 1 is LIVE on SuperSport 2 from 6.20-10.10pm. Day 2 is LIVE on SuperSport 6 from 5.20-9.10pm!

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Nigeria’s Asumnu and Duncan lead Africa’s chase for 4x100m honours @ Continental Cup

13 Sep IMG_0982 copy 2

Team Nigeria dominated the women’s 4x100m at the African Championships in Marrakech last month after Blessing Okagbare led the team to a fourth consecutive title in 43.56s, ahead of Cote d’Ivoire (43.99s) and Ghana (44.06s).

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However it is a mixed grill that will make an appearance at the forthcoming IAAF Continental Cup, comprising of two Nigerians, an Ivoirian and a South African. Nigeria’s Gloria Asumnu (No.36 with 11.15s) and Dominique Duncan would be in action for Team Africa in what has been an eventful season. The pair picked silver at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow with the 4x100m team, and then struck gold in Marrakech last month. They will be joined by African Championship Silver Medallist in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m, Marie J Ta Lou Gonezie (No. 43 with 11.20s) of Cote d’Ivoire and South Africa’s Justine Palframan.

Unfortunately, the absence of the continent’s top two athletes, Blessing Okagbare (No. 2 with 10.85s) and Murielle Ahouré (No. 6 with 10.97s) at the Continental Cup will be sorely felt by friends and foes alike, as their presence would have raised the bar in terms of the level of competition, and bridged the gap between the hosts and their opponents.  

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The star-studded Americas team will be led by world No. 2 (held jointly with Okagbare), Michelle Lee-Ahye of Trinidad and Tobago (10.85s) and has Diamond League trophy winner and Commonwealth silver medallist, Veronica Campbell-Brown (No. 4 with 10.86s), Tianna Bartoletta (No. 5 with 10.92s), Samantha Henry-Robinson (No. 7 with 11.00s) and Joanna Atkins (No. 11 with 11.02s) in tow. They would no doubt be the side to watch out for at the event.

Just like their male counterparts, European champions Great Britain will be representing their continent in the relay. The team is No. 3 on the IAAF 2014 Rankings, just behind Jamaica and the USA with a time of 42.21s. They won the 4x100m race at the European Championship in Zurich with a National Record (NR) of 42.25s, which eclipses the time of 42.43s set at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Competing for Team Europe are Desiree Henry (No. 50 with 11.21s), Ashleigh Nelson (No. 41 with 11.19s), Anyika Onuora and Asha Philip (No. 40 with 11.18s) No.3 with 42.21s

Asian champions Japan occupy the 33rd  spot on the world rankings with 43.74s and Yuki Jimbo, Yuki Miyazawa, Mizuki Nakamura, Maho Takamori and Tomoka Tsuchihashi make up the Asian-Pacific team.

 

The IAAF Continental Cup will be taking place in Marrakech, Morocco THIS WEEKEND (Sept 13th & 14th), and Gloria Asumnu (NGR), Dominique Duncan (NGR), Marie J Ta Lou Gonezie (CIV) and Justine Palframan (RSA) will be representing Team Africa in the women’s 4x100m on Saturday Sept 13th at 9.40pm!

Day 1 is LIVE on SuperSport 2 from 6.20-10.10pm. Day 2 is LIVE on SuperSport 6 from 5.20-9.10pm!

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(Regina George stood in for Blessing Okagbare at the 4x100m award ceremony, as Blessing had already left Marrakech on the day of the ceremony!)

Team Nigeria to spearhead Africa’s 4x100m medal hopes @ Continental Cup

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Nigeria’s GOLD winning team in the men’s 4x100m relay at the 2014 African Senior Championships in Marrakech are the sole bearers of Team Africa’s hopes in the event at the IAAF Continental Cup holding in Morocco this weekend.

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This season has been a long one for the team which participated first at the IAAF World Relays in May without a medal, and then the Commonwealth Games where they ran alongside world leaders, Jamaica in the heats and final. National 100m champion, Mark Jelks anchored the team to second position in the heats, just behind Jamaica which had the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt in action. They eventually finished a sixth in a final which was won by the Jamaicans in a scorching 37.58s.

It was an entirely different story at the African Championships as the Nigerian quartet comprising of Ogho-Oghene Egwero (No. 90 in the world this season with 10.18s), Monzavous Edwards (No. 78), Obinna Metu (No. 173 with 10.28s) and Jelks (No. 35) who was the anchor once again, dominated the event by clocking a Season’s Best (SB) of 38.80s ahead of Ghana (39.28s) and the Algerian team which sprinted to a National Record (NR) of 39.89s.

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Jelks and Edwards finished second and third respectively in the men’s 100m with SBs of 10.07s and 10.16s respectively, while the title was won by Cote d’Ivoire’s Hua Wilfried Koffi with an NR and Personal Best (PB) of 10.05s. However the 4x100m team would be without the services of Koffi who will focus on the sprint double at the forthcoming event. The Nigerian team is 34th on the 2014 IAAF 4x100m Relay rankings.

The Americas team comes with an intimidating CV, having the likes of Richard Thompson (No. 2 with 9.82s), Michael Rodgers (No. 4 with 9.91s), Jamaica’s Nesta Carter (No. 8 with 9.96s) and veteran Kim Collins (No. 8 with 9.96s). All four athletes have done a sub-10 this season and are certainly the team to beat – it will be interesting to see how they do with their baton exchanges, given that the quadrennial continental cup is the only major competition that could see these sprinters of different nations competing on the same team!

European champions, Team GB, will represent the continent in Marrakech. They won the continental crown in a very strong 37.93s. It comprises of Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (No. 40 with 10.08s), James Ellington (No. 59 with 12.13s), Richard Kilty (No. 51 with 10.12s) and Danny Talbot (No. 87 in 10.17s) – they will be expected to put up a good fight for the podium as the team ranks second on the 2014 IAAF rankings behind Jamaica.

Asian champions and world No. 10 relay team Japan, with an SB of 38.34s, will be representing Team Asian-Pacific and is made up of Masaharu Mori, Masafumi Naoki, Yu Onabuta, Kazuma Oseto (No. 141 with 10.25s) and Kotaro Taniguchi. Amongst the four teams, it would seem that Team Africa are the underdogs, give them times each team has run this season, so it will be interesting to see if they can cause an upset!

 

The IAAF Continental Cup will be taking place in Marrakech, Morocco THIS WEEKEND (Sept 13th & 14th), and Team Nigeria will be representing Africa in the men’s 4x100m on Saturday Sept 13th at 9.55pm!

Day 1 is LIVE on SuperSport 2 from 6.20-10.10pm. Day 2 is LIVE on SuperSport 6 from 5.20-9.10pm!

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Stephen Mozia goes against big names in the discus @ Continental Cup

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Stephen Mozia is Nigerian champion in the both the shot put and discus throws. However, he will be representing Team Africa at the IAAF Continental Cup this weekend in the discus throw only, alongside African champion, Victor Hogan of South Africa.

Mozia formally began competing for Nigeria at the World Indoors in Sopot this year, though he missed out on qualification for the final of the men’s shot put event. However, he had set a National Record (indoor) of 20.79m at the Ivy League Championships prior to the world indoors.

The Cornell University senior went on to set an NR of 20.38m at the NCAA East Preliminaries in May, and then won the shot put at his debut outing during the National Trials in Calabar with a distance of 18.14m, followed by Augustine Nwoye who had a throw of 17.25m. He also dominated the discus event with 53.69m while Nwoye followed again with 53.28m.

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He competed at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow where he finished 7th with a throw of 17.76m in the qualification round, ruling him out of the final. He placed fourth in the Men’s shot put final at the African Championships in Marrakech with 17.65m, while Nwoye finished in seventh with 16.90m. South Africa’s Orazio Cremona won with 19.84m.

However he made up for this with a bronze medal in the discus with 57.11m, though his Season’s Best (SB) of 62.80m would have seen him claim silver as eventual winner, Hogan took the title with  a distance of 62.87m, while team mate Russell Tucker with 62.15m. Mozia makes the selection into the African team since the top two in the event were from the same country and cannot both represent the continent.

Mozia ranks 53rd in the world this year, with Hogan being twenty spots ahead (No.33) with an SB of 64.16m. The pair would be contending against World No. 7 and 24 respectively inTeam Americas’ Jorge Fernandez (66.50m) and Jason Morgan (64.72m). Gerd Kanter of Estonia (No. 10) would be spearheading the European attack and he comes with an SB of 66.02m. His teammate is Poland’s Robert Urbanek whose effort of 65.75m puts him at No. 17 on the rankings.

Former Commonwealth champion and silver medallist at the last Continental Cup, Benn Harradine (No. 13) will be hoping to upgrade to a gold medal this time around and comes with a best performance of 65.94m. He is joined by Sultan Mubarak Al-Dawoodi (No. 132) in the Asian-Pacific team. 

 

The IAAF Continental Cup will be taking place in Marrakech, Morocco THIS WEEKEND (Sept 13th & 14th), and Stephen Mozia will be representing Team Africa in the men’s discus throw on Sunday Sept 14th from 6.50pm!

Day 1 is LIVE on SuperSport 2 from 6.20-10.10pm. Day 2 is LIVE on SuperSport 6 from 5.20-9.10pm!

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Dominique Duncan goes head-to-head with Schippers, Soumaré in 200m @ Continental Cup!

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Team Nigeria’s Dominique Duncan is set to take her place amongst some of the world’s best athletes in the women’s 200m as the IAAF Continental Cup takes off in Morocco this weekend.

Duncan first donned the green and white colours this year, having switched allegiance from the USA, and she placed third at the National Trials with a time of 23.91s, behind Blessing Okagbare (22.62s) and Gloria Asumnu (23.54s).

Her first outing for Nigeria was at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow where she competed in the 200m and 4x100m relay. She missed out on an appearance in the final of the 200m but took silver in the relay with the team, which finished behind Jamaica in the final with a time of 42.92s.

She was at the African Championships in Marrakech a week later, where she claimed her first continental title in the relays, then comfortably led her heat in the 200m. She finished second behind Cote d’Ivoire’s Marie J Ta Lou in the semis, clocking 23.44s, and qualified for the final alongside team mates, defending champion, Gloria Asumnu and Regina George.

The race was a battle for superiority between Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire’s duo of Ta Lou and double silver medallist at the 2013 World Championships, Murielle Ahouré. However it turned out to be 1-2 for the Ivoirians, with Ahouré taking the win in 22.36s, while Duncan was the surprise medallist from the Nigerian camp, winning bronze in 22.98s. Asumnu and George placed fifth and sixth respectively.

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She said, “This medal is a victory for the team. Some may have thought that I didn’t stand a chance against Ahouré, but you always have to believe. You speak into existence and it happens. I was trying to get up here to get a medal that I can take home and I’m pretty pleased with it. The Continental Cup means more training; it’s just a mental thing and you need to be prepared for it.”

She is ranked No. 31 in the world with a Season’s Best (SB) of 22.82s, while teammate, Ta Lou, incidentally, is five places lower with 22.87s. 

World No. 2 and European double sprint champion, Dafne Schippers (22.03s) of the Netherlands is the standout athlete to watch out for, along with Myriam Soumaré (No. 3) who posted a scorching Personal Best (PB) of 22.11s at the final leg of the IAAF Diamond League in Brussels. Joanna Atkins (No. 7 with 22.27s) and Team Americas partner, Anthonique Strachan (No. 12 with 22.50s) are also key contenders in the race. Their Asian-Pacific rivals comprise of Olga Safronova, (No. 34) with 22.85s, while Melissa Breen is further down at the 158th spot (23.37s).

 

The IAAF Continental Cup will be taking place in Marrakech, Morocco THIS WEEKEND (Sept 13th & 14th), and Dominique Duncan will be representing Team Africa in the women’s 200m on Sunday Sept 14th at 7.35pm!

Day 1 is LIVE on SuperSport 2 from 6.20-10.10pm. Day 2 is LIVE on SuperSport 6 from 5.20-9.10pm!

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