Botswana – Africa’s rising force in the Sprints and Middle Distances

14 Nov (Photo Credit: Ian Walton/Getty Images Europe)

In times past, countries from the southern part of the African continent were not regarded as good producers of the world’s best runners, but recently, Botswana, which was once considered a minnow in Africa and the world athletics stage, is proving that innate talent can be found in any part of the world irrespective of the geographical location.

Take for instance the emergence of Nijel Amos who came into global recognition after winning the Bronze medal at the 2011 Commonwealth Youth Games which was held at the Isle of Man. A breakout 2012 season as an 18yr old saw him become champion at the 2012 World Junior Athletics Championships in Spain, finishing in a new Championship Record (CR) of 1:43.79s.

Few months later at the London 2012 Summer Olympics, Amos won a Silver medal, which turned out to be Botswana’s FIRST EVER Olympic medal! His time of 1:41.73s established a new World Junior Record behind the new World Record (WR) set by Kenya’s David Rudisha and is tied as the third fastest individual ever. This historic achievement has given more recognition to Botswana’s athletics.

Nijel Amos celebrates his historic win over David Rudisha at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. (Photo Credit: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe)

Nijel Amos celebrates his historic win over David Rudisha at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow (Photo Credit: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe)

An outstanding 2014 season saw him continue his rivalry with Rudisha. He set a World Lead of 1:42.45s at the Herculis Diamond League meeting, before winning the Commonwealth Games GOLD medal in 1:45.18s, taking the shine from the Kenyan in both races, thereby becoming the only athlete to have defeated the former world champion on several occasions.

He became the African champion in Morocco, then capped off his outstanding season with yet another GOLD medal at the IAAF Continental Cup, leading an African 1-2 to give the host continent maximum points. This means he has made it 3/3 wins in major competitions this year, with a consummate win against top-class athletes. His efforts earned him a a nomination for the IAAF Athlete of the Year.

Nijel Amos inspired a 1-2 finish for Africa at the IAAF Continental Cup. (Photo Credit: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images Europe)

Nijel Amos inspired a 1-2 finish for Africa at the IAAF Continental Cup in Marrakech.
(Photo Credit: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images Europe)

Nijel Amos celebrates winning the Commonwealth Games gold in the Men's 800m. (Photo Credit: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe)

Nijel Amos celebrates winning the Commonwealth Games gold in the Men’s 800m.
(Photo Credit: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe)

Amos hasn’t been the only standout athlete for Botswana this season; Isaac Makwala after years of consistent medal winnings for his country continentally, made sure Botswana had their best outing at the 2014 African Athletics Championship in Morocco.

Makwala approached the championships as favourite to defend his crown after setting an African Record (AR) of 44.01s (the third fastest time in 2014) in the 400m at the 35th Resisprint International Athletics Meeting earlier in the year. He went on to post a scorching NR of 19.96s in superlative style less than two hours later.

Makwala competing at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. (Photo Credit: Clive Rose/Getty Images Europe)

Makwala competing at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
(Photo Credit: Clive Rose/Getty Images Europe)

Nigeria with her abundance of talent is yet to produce a sub 20s runner since Francis Obikwelu did it at the 1999 World Championships in Spain. The closest in recent times was Divine Oduduru’s wind-assisted run of 20.25s at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships in Oregon.

It was not surprising that he successfully defended his title in spite of the threat posed by South African record holder and Commonwealth Games silver medallist, Wayde Van Niekerk, smashing the CR in the process with a winning time of 44.23s, before taking silver in the 200m behind surprise winner Cote d’Ivoire’s Hua Wilfried Koffi in 20.51s.

It should be noted that the last time a Nigerian won the African 400m title was Christian Chukwu’s feat in 1996, while Athens 2004 Bronze medallist, Godday James became the last Nigerian to run under 45s, performing the feat first in 2006 in 44.99s, and then lowering his time to a brilliant 44.90s two years later at the Abuja Grand Prix.

Isaac Makwala finished second behind Cote d'Ivoire's Hua Wilfied Koffi in the 200m in Marakech.

Isaac Makwala finished second behind Cote d’Ivoire’s Hua Wilfied Koffi in the 200m in Marakech.

Not done with winning titles, Makwala anchored his country’s 4x400m team which comprised of Amos, Pako Seribe and Leaname Maotoanong to its first ever continental GOLD in the relay with a NR of 3.01.89s, dethroning Nigeria in the process as the quartet comprising of Amaechi Morton, Miles Ukaoma, Noah Akwu and Robert Simmons followed in second place with 3.03.09s. He ended the championship as the only individual with three medals (2 GOLD, 1 silver).

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 At the IAAF Continental Cup which followed a month later, Makwala won Silver for Team Africa behind Diamond League winner, Lashawn Merritt in 44.84s. He then capped of his season with a spectacular run in the 4x400m as his second leg run turned out to be the defining moment of the race, taking over the lead from the Americas while teammates Saviour Kombe and Van Niekerk consolidated on his performance to give Africa a befitting GOLD medal with a PB of 3:00.02s.

Makwala's magnificient display in the 4x400m relay at the IAAF Continental Cup earned Africa a gold medal. (Photo Credit: Christopher Lee/Getty Images Europe)

Makwala’s magnificient display in the 4x400m relay at the IAAF Continental Cup earned Africa a gold medal (Photo Credit: Christopher Lee/Getty Images Europe)

Makwala’s country man Kabelo Kgosiemang (high jump) has been the most consistent athlete in the history of the African Championships. He successfully defended his title in Marrakech and therefore made history by becoming the first athlete in the history of the championship to win six titles in succession.

Kgosiemang and Makwala, both hold the African Championship Records in their various individual events, set within the last six years, while Nigeria with her abundance of talents and prominence in African athletics hasn’t produced any individual male championship record holder since Seun Ogunkoya ran 9.94s in the 100m in Dakar 1998.

Kabelo Kgosiemang has won the men's high jump event a record six times.  (Photo Credit: www.vebidoo.de)

Kabelo Kgosiemang has won the men’s high jump a record six times.
(Photo Credit: http://www.vebidoo.de)

Kabelo Kgosiemang competing at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. (Photo Credit: Ian Walton/Getty Images Europe)

Kabelo Kgosiemang competing at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
(Photo Credit: Ian Walton/Getty Images Europe)

Sadly, trailblazer and prominent 400m sprinter, Amantle Montsho who has won countless medals both continentally and internationally was banned by the IAAF for failing a drug test after her 4th place finish at the Commonwealth Games, thereby putting a sour taste to a seemingly outstanding 2014 season in Botswana’s athletics.

Montsho is a three-time back to back African champion, 2010 Commonwealth Games and IAAF Continental Cup winner (making her Botswana’s first GOLD medalist of the games), former world champion winning, in a Personal Best (PB) and NR of 49.56s in Daegu, South Korea, thereby becoming Botswana’s first ever world champion (a feat that has not been attained by any Nigerian sprinter till date).

Amantle Monsho and Issac Makwala grabbed a double for Botswana in the 400m at the 2012 African Championships in Benin. (Photo Credit: www.athleticsafrica.com)

Amantle Monsho and Makwala grabbed a double for Botswana in the 400m at the 2012 African Championships.
(Photo Credit: http://www.athleticsafrica.com)

Amantle Montsho celebrates her 2011 All-African Games triumph in Maputo. (Photo Credit: www.bsnc.co.bw)

Amantle Montsho celebrates her 2011 All-African Games triumph in Maputo.
(Photo Credit: http://www.bsnc.co.bw)

The dominance of Botswana in middle distant races is bound to continue considering that they already have upcoming youth athletes in Thebo Baboloki (African youth 200m champion) and Karabo Sibanda, a silver medallist in the 400m at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, who are already running as fast as our national champions.

Botswana’s progress in the sprints and middle distance races is a certification that their athletes could well be a force to reckon with on the global stage for years to come!

(Photo Credit: Ian Walton/Getty Images Europe)

(Photo Credit: Ian Walton/Getty Images Europe)

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(Photo Credit: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images Europe)

(Photo Credit: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images Europe)

(Photo Credit: Ian Walton/Getty Images Europe)

(Photo Credit: Ian Walton/Getty Images Europe)

South Africa – the powerhouse of African Athletics

6 Nov (Photo Credit: http://www.sport24.co.za)

The breakthrough performances of many South African athletes in 2014 has confirmed the country’s status as the reigning powerhouse of athletics on the continent.

There is no denying that South Africa’s dominance in African athletics, took a sharp nosedive since their triumph at the 2008 African Championships in Addis Ababa, which completed a hat-trick of consecutive titles won at the continental championship in the past decade.

Since then, the country has witnessed two back to back third place finishes, relinquishing the top spot first to Kenya in 2010 and then Nigeria in 2012, statistically indicating a loss of form of their athletes by over fifty percent in the past four years.

Simon Magakwe's blistering NR of 9.98s earned him the continent's top spot in 2014.  (Photo Credit: http://www.athleticsnews.co.za).

Simon Magakwe’s blistering NR of 9.98s was the fastest time posted by an African in 2014.
(Photo Credit: http://www.athleticsnews.co.za)

However there was a reversal of fortunes in 2014 with an outstanding season which started off at the South African Championships in April, where a new National Record (NR) of 9.98s was set by Simon Magakwe in the 100m. Other highlights included Cornel Fredericks dethroning record holder L.J. Van Zyl in the 400m hurdles, before relatively unknown Wayde Van Niekerk (men’s 400m), Wenda Theron Nel (women’s 400m hurdles) and Rikenette Steenkamp (women’s 100m hurdles) each won their events.

Two months later, at the Diamond League meeting in New York, Niekerk sensationally broke the 15 year old NR, posting a time of 44.38s, thereby, announcing himself globally as a potential Commonwealth Games and African medalist in his event.

Silver medallist Wayde van Niekerk, gold medallist Kirani James and bronze medallist Lalonde Gordon pose with their medals. (Photo Credit: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images Europe)

Wayde van Niekerk (L), won silver behind Kirani James in Glasgow.
(Photo Credit: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images Europe)

The athletes took this form to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow where six of them won medals. Khotso Mokoena dethroned Nigeria’s Tosin Oke to win the men’s triple jump while Zarck Visser and Rushwahl Samaai took silver and bronze respectively in the long jump. Fredericks also struck gold in the 400m hurdles while Niekerk and two time Commonwealth Games champion, Sunette Viljoen (javelin) settled for silver.

Unsurprisingly, all six athletes got to the podium at the African Championships which followed a week later in Marrakech, Morocco. Mokoena denied defending champion, Oke a third consecutive title, making him the first South African to win the event, while Fredericks was unstoppable as he dethroned Nigeria’s Amaechi Morton in the hurdles.

Mokoena won gold ahead of Nigeria's Tosin Oke.

Khotso Mokoena twice won gold ahead of Nigeria’s Tosin Oke in the men’s triple jump.

Cornel Fredericks who has been in fantastic form this season scooped the African and Commonwealth Games titles.

Cornel Fredericks who has been in fantastic form this season, scooped the African, Commonwealth and IAAF Continental Cup titles in the 400m hurdles.

Viljoen continued her unbeaten streak by throwing a Season’s Best (SB) and new Championship Record (CR) of 65.32m to win her fourth African title. She now has more Javelin GOLD medals from the African Championship than any other athlete, male or female, in the 35 year old history of the event.

In the women’s 400m hurdles, Theron Nel beat her Nigerian counterpart, Amaka Ogoegbunam to the title in 55.32s. The hurdler has come a long way from her fifth place finish in Port Novo two years ago (57.06s) after running a PB of 54.82s this season, making her the 13th fastest in the world this year and faster than any other Nigerian athlete since 2012, when Ajoke Odumosu clocked a PB of 54.40s in the semi-finals at the London Olympics.

Sunette Viljoen capped the 2014 season with a Silver medal at the Commonwealth Games and fourth African title in Marrakech. (Photo Credit: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images AsiaPac)

Sunette Viljoen capped the 2014 season with a Silver medal at the Commonwealth Games and fourth African title in Marrakech.
(Photo Credit: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images AsiaPac)

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Wenda Theron Nel overcame Nigeria’s Amaka Ogoegbunam to win her first African title in the women’s 400m hurdles.

It was a similar story in the women’s 100m hurdles as Steenkamp scooped the country’s first gold medal in the history of the championships.
The South Africans dominated the field events and virtually had representatives to compete with Nigerian athletes in almost every final, comparable to the stiff competition and rivalry that exists between the Jamaicans and Americans at major events.

Although, the country couldn’t win any medal in the sprints after coming to the championships with six of the continent’s Top 10 fastest male athletes in 2014, it doesn’t take away the fact that they have Africa’s fastest man this season (Magakwe with his 9.98s).

Rikenette Steenkamp was not left out in the gold rush as she added the African title to her national crown in the 100m hurdles.

Rikenette Steenkamp was not left out in the gold rush as she added the African title to her national crown in the 100m hurdles.

This is a commendable feat, seeing that no Nigerian athlete has been able to go under the 10s mark since Olusoji Fasuba in 2006, when he set the current African Record of 9.85s, making him No.1 on the list of Africa’s top sprinters.

Also, they recorded a non-podium finish in the 200m, a race which they conveniently won in 2008 (Thuso Mpuang and Isabel Le Roux, both posting PBs of 20.53s and 22.69s respectively), while Nigeria has not won the race since Uchenna Emedolu stormed to the title in 2006.

Athletics South Africa (ASA) President Aleck Sichosana threw down the gauntlet with these words, after his country reclaimed the continent’s No.1 ranking at the conclusion of the Championships:
“Our athletes’ performances in Marrakech have redefined South Africa as the powerhouse of athletics in the continent”.

South Africa dominated most of the field events at the African Championships in Marrakech and emerged overall winners of the competition. (Photo Credit: AthleticsAfrica)

South Africa emerged overall winners at the African Championships in Marrakech.
(Photo Credit: AthleticsAfrica)

South Africa’s rising profile should serve as a challenge to Nigeria, who once occupied the enviable position as the continent’s best as far as Track and Field is concerned, but is now gradually losing its position, going by the threats being posed not just by South Africa in the short/middle distant races, but other African nations such as Cote d’Ivoire and Botswana.

The success of South African athletes in 2014 projects how much more they can achieve in years to come with most of their athletes just nearing the peak of their careers. The athletes are definitely going to be a force to watch out for, not only in Africa, but world athletics at large.

(Photo Credit: Ian Walton/Getty Images Europe)

(Photo Credit: Ian Walton/Getty Images Europe)

(Photo Credit: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe)

(Photo Credit: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe)

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(Photo Credit: Clive Rose/Getty Images Europe)

(Photo Credit: Clive Rose/Getty Images Europe)

(Photo Credit: http://www.sport24.co.za)

(Photo Credit: http://www.sport24.co.za)

(Photo Credit: http://spikes.iaaf.org)

(Photo Credit: http://spikes.iaaf.org)

(Photo Credit: Paul Gilham/Getty Images Europe)

(Photo Credit: Paul Gilham/Getty Images Europe)

Cote d’ Ivoire – a Rising Force in African Sprints

30 Oct (Photo Credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images).

In the sporting world, Cote d’ Ivoire is well known as a power house in African football , and globally for the production of stars such as Didier Drogba, the Toure brothers (Kolo and Yaya), and a host of other big names.

About a decade ago, suggesting that the West African country would produce a female double sprint Silver medallist at the World Championships, and 2014 African champion in the men’s 100m and 200m, would have sounded a bit far-fetched.

Cote d’ Ivoire was first put on the world athletics stage in 1984, when Gabriel Tiacoh (RIP) won the 400m silver medal at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, before making the final at the 1987 World Championships in Rome.
However, the recent strides being recorded by Ivorian sprinters both continentally and internationally are now making the sort of impression that would make Tiacoh proud.

 Gabriel Tiacoh won silver in the men's 400m at the 1984 Olympics, behind USA's Alonzo Babers. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia).

Gabriel Tiacoh won silver in the men’s 400m at the 1984 Olympics, behind USA’s Alonzo Babers.

After the civil war in their country, the gradual but steady emergence of Cote d’Ivoire in world sprints started at the 2009 World Championships where Ben Youssef Meite competed in the first round in the 100m where he posted a time of 10.41s.

He thereafter denied Nigeria a fourth consecutive victory in the men’s 100m in Africa, as he dominated the event at the 2010 African Championships in a time of 10.08s, before taking silver in the 200m in 20.39s. African record holder in the 100m, Olusoji Fasuba, won the event at the 2004, 2006 and 2008 editions of the championship, which was the last time Nigeria struck Gold at the continental championship.

Ben Youssef Meite competed alongside USA’s Justin Gatlin in the men's 100m semi-final at the London 2012 Olympic Games.  (Photo Credit: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters).

Ben Youssef Meite competed alongside USA’s Justin Gatlin in the men’s 100m semi-final at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
(Photo Credit: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters).

In 2012 in Porto Novo, Meite won the Gold medal in the 200m before a semi-final place finish in the 100m at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. It should be noted that, the last time Nigeria won the men’s 200m at the African Championships was in 2006 when Uche Emedolu stormed to the title. Since then, Ivorian sprinters seem to have taken over, sounding a warning that they’re the ones to beat at the African Championships in the sprints.

Another Ivoirian, Hua Wilfried Koffi took over the baton from Meite at the 2014 African Championships in Marrakech. He surprisingly won the sprints double with a Personal Best (PB)/ National Record (NR) of 10.05s in the 100m and 20.25s in the 200m, putting his name in history as the third man to achieve this feat in the Championship history. What is most surprising in his feat is that he trains alone in China, while his coach is in Germany, and their only means of communication on his training program is via email or text messages.

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While Meite and Koffi may have stamped their country’s name in African men’s sprint history, Murielle Ahouré has done it for the females internationally. In fact, she is the most celebrated sportsperson their nation has produced in a decade after their football national team and is nicknamed the ‘female Drogba’ in her country.

Ahouré sprang unto the international scene in March 2012, where she came 2nd (7.04s) in the 60m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships. She became her country’s first medalist at an IAAF World Championships of any age or competition. She then went on to become the sixth African sprinter under 11s when she ran a 10.99s, before making the 100m and 200m final at the 2012 Olympic Games, finishing 7th and 6th respectively.

Murielle Ahoure won Silver in the 60m at the 2012 World Indoors behind Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown (C), while Tianna Madison of Great Britain (R) took bronze. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Murielle Ahoure won Silver in the 60m at the 2012 World Indoors behind Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown (C), while Tianna Madison of Great Britain (R) took bronze.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Murielle Ahoure celebrates her 2013 World Championships Silver medal along with 100m champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and bronze medallist, Carmelita Jeter of the US.  (Photo Credit: Getty Images).

Murielle Ahoure celebrates her 2013 World Championships Silver medal along with 100m champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and bronze medallist, Carmelita Jeter.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images).

At the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Ahouré made history by becoming the first female African sprinter to win a medal in the 100m when she snatched the Silver in 10.93s, before making it double Silver in the 200m in 22.32s. Her achievement in Moscow was undoubtedly a highlight of the 2013 World Championships, especially considering that she won Cote d’Ivoire’s first medals ever in the event! She won the attention of the world, the admiration of Africans, and the adulation of Ivoirians.

The emergence of Cote d’Ivoire now poses a threat to traditional African power house, Nigeria, which has produced the continent’s best sprinters over the past few decades, such as Olapade Adeniken, The Ezinwa brothers, Mary Onyali-Omagbemi Olusoji Fasuba, Deji Aliu, Blessing Okagbare and many other notable athletes.

For instance, at the just concluded African Championships, Nigeria had three finalists in the women’s 100m final, yet only Okagbare made it to the podium with a GOLD medal, while Ahouré and Marie-Josée Ta Lou (another emerging Ivoirian star) shared the remaining spoils. It was the same story in the 200m as the Ivoirian duo dominated once more, while Dominique Duncan emerged the surprise bronze medallist for Nigeria.

Okagbare was Nigeria’s sole medallist in the women's 100m final, while the Ivorian duo of Murielle Ahouré and Marie J Ta Lou won silver and bronze respectively.

Okagbare was Nigeria’s sole medallist in the women’s 100m final, while the Ivorian duo of Murielle Ahouré and Marie J Ta Lou won silver and bronze respectively.

Men's double sprint champion, Hua Wilfried Koffi won gold ahead of the Nigerian pair of Mark Jelks and Monzavous Edwards.

Men’s double sprint champion, Hua Wilfried Koffi won gold ahead of the Nigerian pair of Mark Jelks and Monzavous Edwards.

In the men’s event, Koffi was the lone Ivoirian but he beat three Nigerians (Mark Jelks, Monzavous Edward and Ogho-Oghene Egwero) to the 100m title, and repeated the same feat in the 200m where Nigeria’s sole finalist, Divine Oduduru placed sixth.

The steady rise of the Ivoirians should serve as a note of warning to Nigeria, which is fast losing her global relevance as a force to contend with in the sprints! Meite, Ahouré and Koffi have set the pace for their country; it’s just a matter of time before more Ivorian youths follow in their steps.

(Photo Credit: Getty Images).

(Photo Credit: Getty Images).

(Photo Credit: Christopher Lee/Getty Images).

(Photo Credit: Christopher Lee/Getty Images).

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(Photo Credit: Getty Images).

(Photo Credit: Getty Images).

Hua Wilfried Koffi emerged double sprint champion at the 2014 African Championships in Marrakech. He won the 200m ahead of Isaac Makwala of Botswana (R) and Kenya's Carvin Nkata (L).

(Photo Credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images).

(Photo Credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images).

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

23 Oct Top 12 Part 2 Feature Image copy

On Tuesday we started the countdown of our TOP 12 athletics performers whom we think stood out exceptionally well for the Green-White-Green of Nigeria, listing Nos. 12-7.  We now conclude the series with Nos. 6-1!

6. FOLASHADE ABUGAN:

The 2014 season couldn’t have gone much better for Abugan, given that teammate Regina George started the year as Nigeria’s undisputed leading quarter-miler. Abugan surprisingly claimed the 400m National title in 51.21s ahead of two-time defending champion, George, who had been favoured to make it a hattrick of national titles. She went on to consolidate her position as Nigeria’s new No. 1 by finishing in a commendable 5th place at Commonwealth Games, and then winning the African title in 51.21s again, in a photo finish ahead of Zambia’s National Football Team Captain, Kabange Mupopo. She capped off her outstanding season by helping Team Africa to a 3rd place finish in the 4x400m at the Continental Cup, and she has been ever-present in the mile relay team, which won medals at the World Relays, Commonwealth Games and African Championships this season! IMG_0675 copy

5. DIVINE ODUDURU:

The Delta State athlete had a break-out 2014. After winning the men’s 200m in 20.87s ahead of recently naturalized Monzavous Edwards, to the surprise of many at the Nigerian Trials, few would have guessed that Oduduru would lower his time by more than a further half second this year. Though his official PB remains 20.66s which he ran at the semi-finals of the World Junior Championships in USA, he went on to equal the fifth fastest man of Nigeria’s all-time list in the 200m when he raced to a Silver medal in the final of the World Juniors in with 20.25s! The staggering time was wind-assisted (over 2m/s tailwind) and hence doesn’t count for official record purposes – what does count is that he claimed Nigeria’s only medal in the World U-20 category in the last 2 editions! He is the first Nigerian to run that fast in the 200m since Deji Aliu did it 12 years ago!

Nigeria’s 200 metres TOP FIVE (All-time)
1. Francis Obikwelu – 19.84s (1999), 20.01 (2000), 20.05 & 20.06 (1999)
2. Daniel Effiong – 20.10 (1994)
3. Olapade Adeniken – 20.11 (1992)
4. Oluyemi Kayode (RIP) – 20.22 (1992)
5. Davidson Ezinwa – 20.25 (1992)
5. Deji Aliu – 20.25 (2002)
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4. TOSIN OKE:

The triple jumper has been the most consistent male athlete for the country this season in terms of medal winning. He leapt to a fifth national title and SB of 17.21m at the Nigerian Championships, which was only 2cm down from his lifetime best. He went to the Commonwealth Games as the defending champion but missed out on the GOLD medal by finishing 2nd behind South Africa’s Khotso Mokoena, before suffering the same fate at the African Championships in Morocco. He narrowly missed out on a place on the podium with a 4th place finish at the Continental Cup, posting a jump of 16.89m.

2014 has been the “Year of the Silver” for Oke. Speaking exclusively to MAKING OF CHAMPIONS, he stated that he wants to represent Nigeria at one more Olympics at Rio 2016 before hanging up his jumping spikes!

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3. WOMEN’S 4X400M RELAY TEAM:

Nigeria’s female mile relay squad have been the most consistent set of athletes for the country this year. After starting the season with an African Indoor Record of 3:29.67s in the semis at the World Indoor Championships in Poland, they ran an improved time of 3:27.16s, placing 2nd behind USA at the Penn Relays, with Regina George running a 50.49s anchor leg to overhaul Jamaica.

The best was yet to come, as the quartet of Folashade Abugan, Regina George, Omolara Omotosho and Patience George ran the 3rd fastest time ever by a Nigerian quartet, a blistering 3:23.41s to claim bronze at the IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas. On that occasion Regina George ran a mind boggling 49.4s split on the 2nd leg to help the team to the Bronze – hopefully it is a sign of greater things in the coming years!

L-R: Sade Abugan, Regina George, Omolara Omotosho & Patience Okon George celebrate their fantastic World Relay Bronze in the 4x400m

L-R: Sade Abugan, Regina George, Omolara Omotosho & Patience Okon George celebrate their fantastic World Relay Bronze in the 4x400m

At the Commonwealth Games, they lived up to their pre-championships expectations, winning the Silver medal behind Jamaica, with Ada Benjamin replacing Omotosho in the quartet.  The team consolidated their impressive performance this season by sprinting to their first GOLD medal of 2014, and fourth back to back win at the African Championships in 3:28.87s, before helping Team Africa to 3rd place with 3:25.51s at the Continental Cup. The team is ranked 3rd in the World this year and will be medal contenders at the 2015 World Championships and 2016 Olympics!

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2. ESE BRUME:

The long jumper has definitely been the revelation of the year in Nigerian athletics and deservedly takes 2nd position on our list. Going to the Commonwealth Games, not many people would have given her the chance of becoming the GOLD medal winner for the country, especially after a disappointing performance just a week before where she didn’t make it past the qualification round at the World Junior Championships. Brume started her season by dominating her event at the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) Golden League, before upping her game to win the GOLD medal with a leap of 6.68m at the Nigerian Championships. She added another GOLD medal to her outstanding season at the African Championships, then came 5th for Team Africa at the Continental Cup with a leap of 6.34m. IMG_0928 copy

Brume is now set to follow in Blessing Okagbare’s footsteps, and possibly also transition from jumping to sprinting next year, as she exclusively revealed to MAKING OF CHAMPIONS – we wish her the best of luck as she looks to progress from Commonwealth GOLD to World Championship and Olympic Glory over the next 2 years!

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1. BLESSING OKAGBARE:

The Beijing 2008 bronze medalist deservedly takes the top spot as the reigning Nigerian and Commonwealth 100m & 200m Champion, and African 100m Champ as well – she opted out of the African 200m, perhaps to pick her battles in a tough, long season! She started her Diamond League season, with a 2nd place finish in the 100m, in a time of 11.18s in Qatar. At Shanghai leg of the Diamond League, she won a double with Meet Records in the Long jump (6.86m) and 200m. She ran also a PB of 22.23s in the 200m to come 2nd behind surprise winner Tori Bowie in Eugene.

At the Nigerian Championships in Calabar, she became the first athlete in the Country’s Track and Field history to win a sixth consecutive title in the 100m in a CR of 11.06s before going on to make it a sprint double in the 200m in 22.62s.

Tipped as a medalist at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Okagbare lived up to pre-championships expectations.  She won the 100m in a Games Record of 10.85s, erasing 0.06s off the previous record before making it a double in the 200m in 20.25s. She also helped the women’s 4x100m relay team to a silver medal finish in 42.92s. IMG_0477 copy

At the African Championships in Morocco, she regained her 100m title lost in 2012 by winning with another CR of 11.00s flat ahead of her African rival Murielle Ahouré, before anchoring the 4x100m relay team to a fifth back to back title in 43.65s. Exhaustion began to set in for the African champion who capped off her season with a 3rd place finish in the 100m in Zurich, and 6th place in the 200m in Brusells, losing out on the Diamond League Trophy in both events.

Okagbare is now the most prolific athlete of the Diamond League since its inception in 2010, notching up her 38th appearance in the series. She participated in nine Diamond League meetings this season, winning four of them. She’s ranked second in the IAAF World rankings in the 100m this year, and fifth in the 200m.

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At the end of the season, it could be said that Team Nigeria athletics posted a fair performance in the 2014 athletics season – a future generation of athletes in Brume and Oduduru is set to emerge in Nigerian athletics, and Okagbare is set to lead Nigeria’s charge for medals at the 2015 Worlds and the 2016 Olympics!

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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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Sports with Enee

A personal commentary of sports issues in Nigeria and the world

Sports with Enee

A personal commentary of sports issues in Nigeria and the world

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