Tag Archives: Nigeria

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 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)

 

 

 

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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Tyron Akins leads Team Africa against strong 110m Hurdles field @ Continental Cup!

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Nigerian and African 110m Hurdles champion, Tyron Akins, will face the world’s best hurdlers in Marrakech as the IAAF Continental Cup takes center stage this weekend.

Akins, who recently switched allegiances from Team USA to Nigeria, emerged national 110 hurdles champion at the National Trials in Calabar in June and has not looked back since. The Continental Cup will become the third international outing for the hurdler who is keen on maintaining his winning streak.

His first appearance for Nigeria was at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow where he missed out on the finals, finishing seventh in the heats with 13.77s. However Tyrone more than made up for this disappointment by leading teammates Alex Al-Ameen and Martins Ogierakhi in a clean sweep of all the medals at stake in the 110 hurdles at the African Championships last month.

He posted a time of 13.57s, while Al-Ameen and Ogierakhi clocked 13.78s and 13.80s respectively. The last time Nigeria won the 110m hurdles was in 1996 when national record holder in the event, William Erese mounted the podium in Yaounde, Cameroun!

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After the race, an excited Akins said, “Well I feel good because our goal when we were coming here was 1-2-3. We never said Tyron you win, and this guy second or any of that. It was strictly 1-2-3. We were going to push each other like we always do. I knew I had a pretty good start so those guys know I was going to get out of the blocks, so once I get out, you come with me and we gonna be good to go.

“I know that these guys are going to come towards the end. Martins is a strong competitor so he’s going to be there all through the race. Our goal was accomplished; it was 1-2-3. It could have gone either way; he could have won, we could have run 14s as long as Nigeria won the medals, that was what we were worried about but the focus was 1-2-3.”

Despite an unprecedented 1-2-3 finish in Marrakech however, Akins will be without his Nigerian teammates at the Continental Cup, where athletes from the same nation cannot represent their continent in the same event. Instead he will partner with South Africa’s Ruan De Vries who finished fourth at the African Championships. Akins’ Season’s Best of 13.56s puts him at  63rd  in the world rankings this year, while the South African follows ten places after with a time of 13.62s.

Leading the Americas team is World No.3, Ronnie Ash of the USA who is the only sub-13s performer in the field (12.99s). Cuba’s Yodan O’Farrill is No.10 with 13.19s. Russia’s Sergey Shubenkov (13.13s) is world No.5 this year and finished 2nd in the IAAF Diamond League standings after Pascal Martinot-Lagarde who amassed 27points.  William Sharman of Team GB is No.7 with a time of 13.16s, while No.14, Xie Wenjun of China (13.23s) and Abdulaziz Al-Mandeel (63rd) would represent the Asian-Pacific interest.

The IAAF Continental Cup will be taking place in Marrakech, Morocco THIS WEEKEND (Sept 13th & 14th), and Tyron Akins will be representing Team Africa in the men’s 110m hurdles on Sunday Sept 14th at 6.45pm!

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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Africa’s Jelks to battle Asia’s Ogunode and Europe’s Dasaolu in the 100m @ Continental Cup!

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Competing in the 100m at the forthcoming IAAF Continental Cup slated to hold in Marrakech, Morocco between September 13th and 14th is a dream come true for Nigeria Champion, Mark Jelks as he gets set to make a third appearance for Nigeria on the international scene.

 Jelks was thrust into national reckoning in June this year when he switched allegiance from the US to Nigeria, after being recruited by the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) to run for the country. He raced to his first Nigerian title at the National Trials in Calabar, after which he made his debut appearance at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. He ran a time of 10.28s to win his heat and eventually qualified for the final in 10.13s, where he placed a commendable 5th place.

At the African Athletics Championships in Marrakech a week later. Jelks dominated his heat in 10.41s and his semi in 10.16s, while teammates Ogho-Oghene Egwero and Monzavous Edwards also sailed through to the final. While he lowered his Season’s Best (SB) to 10.07s in the final, it was only good enough for Silver as he was upstaged by the man of the tournament, Cote d’Ivoire’s Hua Wilfried Koffi who sprinted to the African title with a Personal Best (PB) and National Record (NR) of 10.05s. 

Koffi also added the 200m title to his kitty two days later with another NR of 20.25s, making him the third man in the competition’s history to win the African sprint double, after Victor Omagbemi (1992) and Namibia’s Frankie Fredericks (2002).

The men’s 100m race in Marrakech is expected to be a close one as Jelks (world No. 35 this year) partners with the Ivoirian (No. 28) to neutralize the onslaught of the Americas team led by the world’s second fastest man in 2014, Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago (9.82s) and USA’s Michael Rodgers (9.91s) who is No.4 in the IAAF 2014 Rankings.

Newly crowned European champion, James Dasaolu (No. 16), who has an SB of 10.00s, will be joined by predecessor, Christophe Lemaitre who is 46th on the rankings with a time of 10.10s. Nigerian-born Femi Ogunode, who switched allegiance to Qatar in 2009, jointly occupies the 28th spot with Koffi (10.05s). His team mate is China’s Zhang Peimeng.

Going by current form, one might suggest that Rodgers is slight favourite in the pack to take victory, but this race is certainly wide open. Can Africa’s finest, Koffi and Jelks, go under 10 seconds and get on the podium? Jelks has dipped inside 10s (9.99s) just once in his career when competing for Team USA, and would hope to do so once more in the colours of Team Nigeria! For African Champion Koffi, it would be entirely new territory…

The IAAF Continental Cup will be taking place in Marrakech, Morocco THIS WEEKEND (Sept 13th & 14th), and Mark Jelks & Hua Koffi Wilfried will be representing Team Africa in the men’s 100m on Saturday Sept 13th at 8.50pm!

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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Tyron Akins, Nigerian and African 110m Hurdles Champion, ready to give his ALL for his new country!

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Nigeria won an unprecedented 1-2-3 in the 100m Hurdles at the African Championships this week, and MAKING OF CHAMPIONS exclusively caught up with the three medallists, Tyron Akins, Alex Al-Ameen and Martins Ogieriakhi, trackside immediately after the race. 

(L-R, Alex Al-Ameen, Tryon Akins & Martins Ogieriakhi after medals ceremony, where they got Silver, GOLD and Bronze respectively in the 110m Hurdles at the 2014 African Championships

L-R, Alex Al-Ameen, Tryon Akins & Martins Ogieriakhi after medals ceremony, where they got Silver, GOLD and Bronze respectively in the 110m Hurdles at the 2014 African Championships!

In recent weeks, we have spoken much about the controversy surrounding the Americans who recently switched to compete for Team Nigeria. Though Akins was initially reluctant to speak to us again following what we’ve written about them on these pages, he decided to use it as an opportunity to air his grievances on our coverage of their stories, and to let ALL Nigerians know what it means to him to have been given the opportunity to run for Nigeria! See the full interview transcript below:

Akins: When I read what you guys had written, I was so taken aback because when I did the interview with you it was all out of love. I was like mehn I’m happy; this is my first time of being here; like this is unbelievable and then I read the thing and it came off as so negative, like these guys are just coming in and there is controversy and all that. The Nigerian people have done nothing but openly welcome us, so it hurt me to read it, honestly.

MoC: We appreciate this and we’re glad you can talk about this and we respect that. There are a lot of people hurting in Nigeria as well because they feel like they are losing their opportunities to develop because you guys are coming in to take their spots, and they don’t seem to be getting even nearly the same support as you guys are. We appreciate that you’re still willing to speak up on this issue, because you will need your voice to be heard in Nigeria, otherwise you may have an uphill battle in winning over the masses…

Akins: Absolutely! I know that and I don’t have a problem with that because I’m dedicated to Nigeria – that is why I have this shirt on. There are people who are missing out on opportunities but the thing about athletics is this – what this does is that the people who are missing out on opportunities have to go back and re-evaluate and say hey, there is something I’ve got to change. This guy here (Martins Ogierakhi), when I came in he could have said we have Ty here and all that, but he stepped up to the occasion. This guy ran a PB (Personal Best) two weeks back to back. He beat me in Warri, you see what I’m saying? He stepped up to the occasion and its paying off. We are together on the podium now. I just want you to know that I love Nigeria.

Al-Ameen: I know that there is a lot of controversy and in my situation, people say they don’t know my background and stuff. The reason why I switched was not because I couldn’t make the team in England; it’s because I’m Nigerian, my father is Nigerian, and I would want to represent Nigeria. This year I ran a PB coming into these championships. It wasn’t so last year so I’m grateful to be running with these guys. We are the best in Nigeria at the moment; it’s a good day for Nigeria.

Akins: Like I said, even Martins (Ogieriakhi) has run his PB this year, because we’re all pushing each other. You see what I’m saying? We swept the hurdles in the African Champs. I’m giving my all to Nigeria. As a matter of fact, me and my coach are trying to do something where I can come to Lagos and Warri and talk to some of the kids about maybe coming to school in the US, so when you wrote the negative stuff it really hurt me because it was borderline disrespectful – I would never take advantage of a place or come to Nigeria because it is an easier way or something like that. Every time you step on the track it’s gonna be hard. Competition everywhere. Anybody could have won that race today so I never take track and field for granted. 

L-R, Alex Al-Ameen, Tryon Akins & Martins Ogieriakhi being awarded their Silver, GOLD and Bronze Medals respectively by AFN President, Solomon Ogba

L-R, Alex Al-Ameen, Tryon Akins & Martins Ogieriakhi being awarded their Silver, GOLD and Bronze Medals respectively by AFN President, Solomon Ogba

MoC: So let’s get to the race. Congratulations! It was a clean sweep for Nigeria in the 110m hurdles. Tyron you won that race with 13.57s. Talk us through the race, how did you feel?

Akins: Well I feel good because our goal when we were coming here was 1-2-3. We never said Tyron you win, and this guy second or any of that. It was strictly 1-2-3. We were going to push each other like we always do. I knew I had a pretty good start so those guys know I was going to get out of the blocks, so once I get out, you come with me and we gonna be good to go. I know that these guys are going to come towards the end. Martins is a strong competitor so he’s going to be there all through the race. Our goal was accomplished, it was 1-2-3. It could have gone either way; he could have won, we could have run 14s as long as Nigeria won the medals, that was what we were worried about but the focus was 1-2-3.

MoC: Do you feel like this makes up for just missing out on the finals at the Commonwealth games?

Akins: Missing out on the finals in the Commonwealth Games was because I didn’t have any races. My last before the Commonwealth Games was trials, so I went a whole month without races, so I wasn’t really sharp. It hurt me dearly because I want to really represent the country to the best of my ability and I couldn’t do it because I wasn’t in the finals, but this is a sort of redemption so I’m pleased with it.

MoC: Alex, let’s come to you very quickly, you were in the final at the Commonwealth Games, and 2nd here, which is your first silverware for Team Nigeria, a Silver medal in Africa. How does it feel?

Al-Ameen: Well it feels good and I would say it was great that we did a 1-2-3. I was coming here to win but I’m happy that my teammate got it. I did make the final at the Commonwealth Games and it was a great achievement of mine because I put it down as one of my goals for the year, and to get silverware as well. I didn’t do as well as I could have in the final today, but I am so happy that I can win a Silver medal for Nigeria and myself.

MoC: Martins I’m going to come to you very quickly. You were the National Sports Festival champion in 2012, and won the title twice before that as well?

Ogieriakhi: I have won it three times back to back: 2009, 2011 and 2012.

MoC: Wow! So is this your first medal for Nigeria at a global competition?

Ogieriakhi: Yeah, this is my first medal and I am very happy. I was going for the first position. Seeing Tyron by my side, I had to push forward and I had to tell myself ‘I won’t let him go, I won’t let him go!’ Both of them pushed me to place 3rd in this very race, so I am very happy.

MoC: Where do you go to from here now? More medals for Nigeria?

Ogieriakhi: Yeah! We said it yesterday that we were going to place first, second, third here, so hopefully we can do more.

MoC: Tyron, we’re going to end with you. We know that the Nigerian press including ourselves have given you guys a lot of heat since you switched to Nigeria. Can you tell us what this medal means to you?

Akins: It means so much because I expect to get the heat; you’re doing your job and I respect that but at the same time I just want to let you know that this is not just something that I take for granted. I’m very very serious about this. This is something that is very dear to my heart so. Like I said when I read what you had written I was so shocked because when I did the interview I didn’t get that vibe at all, but to get this medal and not only that, to get this 1-2-3 sweep for Nigeria is so overwhelming; it’s hard to put it in words. I think we were so close in the medal count and this medal just put us over, I’m not sure.

MoC: Thank you for still taking the time to talk to us. We appreciate it.

Akins: You’re just doing your job man. I just want you to know that I’m very serious about this.

Hurdles Clean Sweep

American Lindsay Lindley becomes Lindsay Weyinme – after getting Nigerian passport through uncle who ‘married in’!

15 Aug IMG_0310 copy

Hey, would you like a passport in 24 hours to compete for Nigeria? Apparently we’re giving them out to anyone who’ll accept the offer…

The African Championships rounded up on Thursday night, and the big surprise for Nigeria fans during the week-long competition was the sudden appearance of new girl Lindsay Weyinme in Green-White-Green of Team Naija. We caught up with her after the 100m Hurdles final where she finished 4th, and this is what she had to say about how she was recruited to Team Nigeria (captured on camera by AthleticsAfrica):

Following the National Trials in Calabar, where we extensively covered the appearance of the newly recruited Americans to Team Nigeria, we asked the most pertinent question that arose – whether they should even have received Green Passport in the first place, given that Nigeria citizenship law clearly states that one must have at least ONE Nigerian parent to naturalise, if you were not born in Nigeria. Never in the history of Nigeria has any foreigner EVER received the passport because their great-grandparent or great-great grandparent was Nigerian, as some of them have claimed is their link to Nigeria.

All of this makes Weyinme’s claim as to how she got the Nigerian Passport even more startling. Is there any country in the whole world where you can become a citizen because your UNCLE MARRIED someone from that country? Not you, but your uncle? It’s such brazen disregard for Nigerian Law that one can only assume this young lady and her ‘Naijamerican’ colleagues have been rather misinformed and ill-advised in this whole situation.

Let’s not even get into the fact that she did not even attend the Nigerian Trials so her selection on the team is a big surprise, to say the least. This is the same situation with Robert Simmons, who also did not attend the trials, and has done little to justify his inclusion on the team, after not finishing his 400m race at the Commonwealth Games, and false starting earlier this week at these African Championships. The integrity of our whole selection process is at stake here.

It did not take long for more news on Wenyime’s background to emerge in online fan forums in Nigeria. It turns out that her real name is Lindsay Lindley, and it is likely that she was given the name Weyinme during the process of naturalising. Interestingly, the other Americans recruited to Team Nigeria have been given Delta middle names, such as Mark ‘Amuju’ Jelks, Monzavous ‘Jolomi’ Edwards, Tyron ‘Toritseju’ Akins, and so on.

They are all set to represent Delta State at the upcoming National Sports Festival, which just happens to be the first National Sports Festival that is open to foreign-based Nigerians, a classification which they now fall under. Which begs the question – is their recruitment really about making Team Nigeria better, or is it about Delta State winning the National Sports Festival? What becomes of them after the Festival? Only time will tell.

One thing is certain – it is very IMPORTANT that Nigerians do NOT direct any ill-feelings towards these athletes, who are merely embracing an opportunity that has been accorded them to advance their careers as Nigerians. What’s done is done, so they should be supported for whatever time they have left as Team Nigeria athletes (the majority of them are over 30), BUT as a people we need to make sure that we protect the integrity of the Nigerian passport, and what it means to represent this great nation – our immigration services has clearly dropped the ball here.

What’s next if we don’t close the loop on this? Someone will say their friend’s sister’s aunty-in-law is Nigerian and that’s how they got the passport? Essentially, almost anybody in the world can get a Nigerian passport in 24 hours to compete for us. You would think that this MIGHT be acceptable if we were talking about world-class, exceptional talents, but so far they have not improved Team Nigeria – at the Commonwealth Games only one of the recruits got a RELAY medal, while at these African Championships only one of them got an individual GOLD, which we still would have won anyway if they were not there, as we swept all the medals in that event. We even lost our Continental Crown to South Africa, winning only 8 gold medals this time around, as opposed to 10 in Porto Novo 2 years ago!

When all is said and done, this is not even about the recruits, and we want to re-iterate that we harbour no ill-feelings towards them, and we will celebrate whatever medals they can win for Team Nigeria at any level. What this is really about is how we see ourselves as a nation and a people. We need now to look deeply within, at our system, to make sure that born and bred Nigerians get the SAME opportunities, SAME privileges, and SAME funding as the American Recruits, because if that were to happen, Nigeria WILL surpass Jamaica & USA as the dominant force in World Athletics. It would only be a matter of time. Watch this space.

Marrakech ’14 Day 4 RECAP: Tosin Oke settles for Silver in Triple Jump as Oduduru, Asumnu reach 200m finals!

13 Aug C'wealth Games Reviews Featured Photo

Five-time national triple jump champion, Tosin Oke had to make do with Silver for the second time in as many weeks as he was beaten to gold by South Africa’s Godfrey Mokoena on Wednesday at the African Athletics Championships in Marrakech.

Oke, the defending champion, had won the title back to back (in Kenya four years ago and the last edition in Port Novo in 2012), but could not out-leap Mokoena who won gold with 17.03m which he secured in his very first jump of the evening. Oke made a leap of 16.96m in his second attempt and improved on it by 1cm in his very last attempt, which is his Season’s Best (SB).

The duo met in Glasgow at the Commonwealth Games less than a fortnight ago where the South African also stripped his Nigerian counterpart of his Commonwealth title with a distance of 17.20m, while Oke followed in second position in 16.84m. Thankfully though, he will still get to compete at the IAAF Continental Cup slated to hold between September 13 and 14 in Marrakech. His team mate and Nigeria’s No.2, Olu Olamigoke finished in sixth position with 16.18m. He narrowly missed out on a medal in Glasgow where he finished fourth with a distance of 16.56m.

Nigeria’s best prospect for a medal in the men’s 200m, Divine Oduduru qualified for the final of the men’s 200m, having finished second in the semi-finals and first in the heats ahead of Cote d’Ivoire’s Wilfried Koffi Hua. He has set up an explosive meeting with the Ivoirian who is the newly crowned African 100m Champion as well Africa’s No.1, Isaac Makwala who has returned 19.96s this season. Mark Jelks and Seye Ogunlewe also took part in the heats but pulled out of the semis for undisclosed reasons.

The trio of Gloria Asumnu, Dominique Duncan and Regina George all qualified for the women’s 200m final which promises to be a Nigeria versus Cote d’Ivoire final as double World Championships Silver Medallist and Africa’s No.2, Murielle Ahouré and Marie Ta Lou Gonezie will be aiming for the top two spots. Following the absence of Blessing Okagbare who pulled out of the 200m and would have been the major contender for gold, the focus will mostly be on houré who looks good for GOLD as she virtually jogged through the heats and semis. However her compatriot, Lou Gonezie looks in fine form to possibly deny Asumnu and the other Nigerians a medal spot, as she has the fastest time from the semis, 23.03s.

Amaka Ogoegbunam easily sailed through the heats in the 400m hurdles and has positioned herself for gold, wining her heat with 56.49s ahead of Morocco’s Hayat Lambarki who is a former African Champion. Her time was also the second fastest in the heats, though compatriot Kemi Francis wasn’t as lucky as she finished seventh in Heat 2 in 1:01.42. Abiye David placed third in her heat in 2:08.58, behind Kenya’s Eunice Sum and Ethiopia’s Lidiya Melese in the women’s 800m, which wasn’t good enough to see her through to the final.

Nigeria moved one place down on the medals table as South Africa regained the top position with eight gold, five silver and two bronze medals. Nigeria follows with seven gold, six silver and five bronze medals while Kenya is third with two gold gold, one silver and five bronze medals.

On Thursday which is the final day of competition, Nigeria will compete in the women’s shot put, women’s triple jump, women’s 400m hurdles, men and women’s 200m and men and women’s 4x400m relays.

Nigeria in African 110m Hurdles CLEAN SWEEP as Akins, Al-Ameen & Ogierakhi win GOLD, Silver & Bronze!

13 Aug Hurdles Clean Sweep

Nigeria’s 110m hurdlers made a clean sweep of the medals in the event on Wednesday night, leaving their Algerian, South African and Malian rivals trailing in their wake on Day Four of competition at the African Senior Championships in Marrakech, Morocco.

National champion, Tyron Akins confirmed his status as the athlete to beat as he claimed his first African title in his debut outing at the championships, and only his second for Nigeria, with 13.57s. This follows his participation at the Commonwealth games where he just missed out on the Finals. He came to Marrakech as No.3 on the African list for 2014 but upstaged the rest of the field to clinch the title. The last time Nigeria won the 110m hurdles was in 1996 when national record holder in the event, William Erese mounted the podium in Yaounde, Cameroun!

Another new Nigerian athlete, Alex Al-Ameen, who was Nigeria’s No.2 from the National Trials, won silver in 13.78s. He came to the championship as the continent’s 2nd fastest athlete this year, behind Algeria’s Lyes Mokddel who competed in the heats but didn’t show up for the final. Al-Ameen competed in the Commonwealth Games and put up an impressive performance to get to the final of the event where he finished in seventh.

The only home-based athlete amongst them and Nigeria’s No.3, Martins Ogierakhi clocked 13.80s to secure the bronze medal. Ogierakhi holds the top position on the home front as he won all legs of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) Golden League and was one of the winners of the much anticipated N2million jackpot. He is also the winner of the last three editions for the National Sports Festival in Nigeria, which will be opened to foreign-based Nigerians for the very first time this year! He’ll have his hands full this time around with Akins and Al-Ameen in the mix!

Unfortunately, only Akins will fly Nigeria’s flag at the forthcoming IAAF Continental Cup, which incidentally holds in Marrakech, as only two athletes represent the continent in each event, and they cannot be from the same country!

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