Tag Archives: Team Nigeria

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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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.

Super Tuesday in Marrakech as Nigeria grabs 5 GOLDS to top medals table after Day 3 of African Champs!

13 Aug C'wealth Games Reviews Featured Photo

Tuesday was a busy evening for Athletics at the African Championships in Marrakech, as Team Nigeria went from winning 1 GOLD on Monday night (Blessing Okagbare in the 100 metres), to winning a whooping FIVE in one evening! This takes Nigeria straight to the top of the medal standings after 3 days, and the nation looks well on course to come close to equalling the 10 GOLD medal haul from the last championships in Benin in 2012!

MEDALS STANDINGS AFTER DAY 3
1. Nigeria 6 gold, 4 silver, 4 bronze
2. South Africa 5 gold, 4 silver, 1 bronze
3. Kenya 2 gold, 1 silver, 5 bronze
4. Botswana 2 gold,
5. Ethiopia 1 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze

Indeed, it was medals galore on Tuesday, as it wasn’t just the GOLD that Nigeria won on the night – Okoro and Okwelogu made it a 1-2 in the Discus, Brume and Amadi made it a 1-2 in the Long Jump, while Abugan and Okon George finished 1st & 3rd in the 400 metres! Winning two GOLD medals in the men and women’s 4x100m relays was then simply the icing on the cake for Team Nigeria as the country overtook rivals South Africa, to get to the top of the medals table.

Reigning 100m African champion, Blessing Okagbare anchored the women’s team, comprising of Gloria Asumnu, Dominique Duncan and Lawreta Ozoh to gold in 43.56s, ahead of Cote d’Ivoire (43.99s), who didn’t have their star athlete, Murielle Ahouré in action, and Ghana followed in third with 44.06s. This follows Nigeria’s Silver winning effort at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow where the team finished behind Jamaica who won the event with 41.83s, while Nigeria posted 42.93s.

The men’s 4x100m team, which comprised of Ogho-Oghene Egwero, Monzavous Edward, Obinna Metu and Mark Jelks, won their first medal of the season as they coasted to gold in 38.80s, thereby bringing an end to South Africa’s domination in the event. The South Africans, who were favourites for the title pulled out, thereby paving the way for Nigeria to reclaim its lost glory in the event. The medal serves as a consolation no doubt, after their seventh place finish in Glasgow. 

Ghana placed second in 39.28s, with Algeria coming third with a National Record (NR) of 39.89s, which elicited wide jubilation from the North Africans. Nigeria holds the AR in the 4x100m (37.94s) while their South African counterparts are owners of the CR (38.75).

In the men’s 400m hurdles, defending champion, Amaechi Morton lost his crown to South Africa’s Cornel Fredericks who is also the new Commonwealth Champion. However, he was consoled by the silver medal (48.92s), having been assured of a place at the forthcoming IAAF Continental Cup, while fellow Nigerian Miles Ukaoma finished in sixth with 50.40s.

Noah Akwu, Nigeria’s last man standing in the 400m, placed seventh in the final that was won by African record holder, Isaac Makwala of Botswana with a CR of 44.23s. Akwu had posted a Season’s Best (SB) of 45.86s in the semis but was unable to replicate the same form in the final as he finished with 46.40s.

The heats of the men’s 110 hurdles was dominated by Nigeria as Alex Al-Ameen won Heat 1 in 13.89s while compatriots Tyron Akins and Martins Ogierakhi finished in the top two spots in Heat 2 with 13.77s and 13.87s respectively. Akins had the fastest time in the final rankings, with Ogierakhi and Al-Ameen following closely. Nigeria can pull off a 1-2-3 in today’s final, barring any injury concerns, but have to watch out for Algeria’s duo of Othman Hadj Lazib and Lyes Mokddel who complete the Africa Top 5 list.

Final Day of Athletics is Silver Lining for Nigeria, with 4×1, 4×4 & Triple Jump medals!

3 Aug Folashade Abugan, 400m Nigerian Champion, after receiving the baton from Ada Benjamin 
for the last leg of the women's 4x400m at Hampden Park in Glasgow at the 2014 C'wealth Games. 
Jamaica won the GOLD, with Nigeria getting the Silver and England the Bronze! 
(Photo Credit: AP Photo/ Scott Heppell)

Brilliant displays by Team Nigeria’s 4x100m and 4x400m female teams, and Tosin Oke in the men’s Triple Jump ensured that three silver medals were added to the three gold medals already won by Blessing Okagbare (100/200m) and Ese Brume (Long Jump), to draw the curtain on an eventful outing at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.

The women’s 4x400m team, rated second in the Commonwealth just behind Jamaica, ensured that they raced the Caribbeans right to the finish line in a time of 3:24.71s, while the Jamaicans raced to the title in a new Games Record of 3:23.82. England was third with 3:27.24. Nigeria’s quartet was made up of Patience Okon George, Regina George, Ada Benjamin and national champion, Folashade Abugan who ran the anchor leg. Funke Oladoye and Omolara Omotosho also pick up Silver medals, having helped the team to reach the final as part of the quartet who had come through the heats the day before in 3:28.28!

Folashade Abugan, 400m Nigerian Champion, after receiving the baton from Ada Benjamin  for the last leg of the women's 4x400m at Hampden Park in Glasgow at the 2014 C'wealth Games.  Jamaica won the GOLD, with Nigeria getting the Silver and England the Bronze!  (Photo Credit: AP Photo/ Scott Heppell)

Folashade Abugan, 400m Nigerian Champion, after receiving the baton from Ada Benjamin
for the last leg of the women’s 4x400m at Hampden Park in Glasgow at the 2014 C’wealth Games.
Jamaica won the GOLD, with Nigeria getting the Silver and England the Bronze!
(Photo Credit: AP Photo/ Scott Heppell)

Their feat no doubt inspired their the women’s 4x100m team, as Gloria Asumnu, Blessing Okagbare, Dominique Duncan and Lawreta Ozoh also stormed to a silver medal behind the Jamaicans once more. This was a great result for the team, considering the fact that they were rated fourth in the Commonwealth prior to the games. The fantastic four posted 42.92s while Jamaica won with another Games Record of 41.83s, with England finished in third in 43.10s. Okagbare became the most decorated athlete of the Games with 2 GOLDs and 1 Silver, and now both relay teams look in very good shape to use these results as a spring board to get more medals at the 2015 World Championships and 2016 Olympics!

It was a different tale however in the men’s event as England (3.00.46), Bahamas (3.00.51) and Trinidad and Tobago (3.01.51) finished in the top three in the 4x400m, with the Nigerian team comprising of Isah Salihu, Miles Ukoama, Noah Akwu and Cristian Morton finishing a seventh in 3:04.86. In the 4x100m, Divine Oduduru, Monzavous Edwards, Obinna Metu and Mark Jelks finished sixth with a time of 40.17secs after the first baton change put paid to the team’s chances of contesting for a medal. Unsurprisingly, the GOLD was won by Usain Bolt’s Jamaica with yet another Games Record of 37.58s, with England and Trinidad & Tobago finished 2nd and 3rd with 38.02s and 38.10s respectively.

Meanwhile Nigeria’s Triple Jump Champion, Tosin Oke was denied from successfully defending his Commonwealth Triple Jump title. The five-time national  champion had to settle for silver despite jumping a Season’s Best (SB) of 16.84m, as he was out-leaped by fierce rival, South Africa’s Godfrey Mokoena who dominated on the evening with his jump of 17.20m. The South African will also be bidding to wrestle Tosin Oke’s African Title away from him when the African Athletics Championships get underway in Morocco in just a week’s time! Oke may well need to jump close to his PB of 17.23m to defend his African Title. Nigeria’s No. 2, Olu Olamigoke was a very commendable 4th with 16.56m while England’s Former World Champion, Phillips Idowu finished 5th in 16.45m.

As the Commonwealth Games draws to a close, Team Nigeria’s performance in Athletics here in Glasgow has certainly been a silver lining, and a huge sign of HOPE for the future – that the Team Nigeria is rising again, after suffering a London 2012 Olympics without a single medal! Okagbare could be a Triple GOLD medal contender at Rio 2016 and Ese Brume is an exciting new talent to watch out for, especially if she follows Blessing’s footsteps and is converted to the sprints! Our women’s 4x400m team look especially strong, with SIX girls who can run 52 seconds (FIVE of whom are home-based) – along with the 4x100m they will be medal contenders in Rio 2016!

Now it’s time for our men to stand up and be counted come 2016 – Tosin Oke’s Silver in the Triple Jump and Richard Okigbazi’s Bronze in the F42/44 Discuss Throw (for athletes with lower limb amputations) were the ONLY Track & Field medals for Team Nigeria’s men. Something URGENTLY needs to be done to revive Men’s Athletics in Nigeria, as it seems that the current strategy of recruiting Americans to Team Nigeria has so far not produced much improvement on what we have at home, where the potential to produce world-beaters and MAKE CHAMPIONS is endless! It’s time for our men to step it up, else we may be depending solely on Blessing and the other girls for medals at next year’s World Championships in Beijing and the 2016 Olympics in Rio!

The Labours of our Para-Athletes must not be forgotten. Richard Okigbazi won BRONZE by throwing 39.38 metres in the F42/44 Discuss - THROWING ON JUST ONE LEG!

The Labours of our Para-Athletes must not be forgotten. Richard Okigbazi won BRONZE by throwing 39.38 metres in the F42/44 Discuss – THROWING ON JUST ONE LEG!

 

MAKING OF CHAMPIONS FILM SCREENING @ EKO HOTEL on Sunday July 20th @ 4pm!

15 Jul MoC Eko Hotel Screening Poster

With the World Cup now over, and Team Nigeria getting ready to go in the Commonwealth Games starting this week, Making of Champions Ltd brings you the EXCLUSIVE Pre-Commonwealth Games screening of our new Athletics Documentary Film, MAKING OF CHAMPIONS: “The History”! 

MoC Eko Hotel Screening Poster

See below for the synopsis and teaser for the film! Let’s get behind Team Nigeria and Make Champions! Admission is FREE, however be sure to RSVP to management@makingofchamps.com to confirm your attendance! We hope to see you there on Sunday!

 

SYNOPSIS

In late 2012, independent filmmaker Bambo Akani started the journey of making the feature-length documentary, Making of Champions: “The History” after seeing a country as populous as Nigeria, blessed with so many people of natural athletic ability, return from the London 2012 Olympics with a sum total of ZERO medals – the first time Nigeria had failed to medal at the Olympics since Seoul ’88. In truth, the decline has been steady since the Sydney 2000 Olympics – we just did not realise it.

Making of Champions: “The History” is a 75-minute film capturing Nigeria’s full Olympic medal history in Athletics (Track & Field) and lays the foundation for how Nigeria can return to reckoning on the world stage:

Making of Champions: “The History” traverses the globe to meet Nigeria’s former Olympic heroes and tell the stories of how they won their Olympic medals – Mary Onyali, Falilat Ogunkoya and Enefiok Udo-Obong, the only double Olympic medallists in Nigeria’s history, and Innocent Egbunike who was Nigeria’s head coach at the London 2012 Olympics. We meet former Nigerian medallists Francis Obikwelu and Glory Alozie in Portugal and Spain respectively, to find out why they switched from Nigeria to represent their adopted countries and finally, we meet all of Jamaica’s star athletes, such as Yohan Blake and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, to find out why the Jamaicans are so fast!

The ultimate goal for the film is to awaken Nigerians to the vast potential we have in Track and Field, rekindle the national interest for the sport, and start a movement that will enable Team Nigeria to once again compete with the best in the world! Why have we fallen so far? How can we get back to winning medals on the global stage? What does it take to Make Champions in Track and Field? This film answers all these questions and more, and is a call to arms for Nigerians everywhere to ensure that the legacy of heroes past is not lost forever in a sport in which Nigeria has limitless potential!

Athlete Interview: MONZAVOUS EDWARDS – 2nd place in 100m at Nigerian Trials, formerly of Team USA!!!

3 Jul Monzavous 'Jolomi' Edwards, recently switched allegiances from Team USA, and placed second in the 100 metres at the 2014 Nigerian Trials

33 year-old Monzavous Edwards speaks exclusively to MAKING OF CHAMPIONS after finishing 2nd in the 100 metres (in 10.39s into -2.3 m/s headwind) at the 2014 Nigerian Trials

Monzavous, how are you feeling about your performance?

I’ll take it. I know it’s not my best, but you can never complain when the main focus was to make it to the Commonwealth. I finished in the Top 3, so the main objective was completed. I’m not satisfied, nor happy with my result, but like I said, I’ll take it.

These Trials and the Warri Relays last week – is it your first times competing for Team Nigeria? 

Yes

Can you tell us about your journey from competing for USA to Nigeria – what made you decide to make the switch?

It was an appreciation for the sport, and more of an appreciation of me as an athlete and a sprinter. In America there’s so much competition that it is hard to be appreciated for all the hard work that you put in. And having the chance to get with my family and switch to Nigeria. Since I’ve made that switch, I’ve felt more than appreciated as a professional athlete. So that was the main reason for it.

You mentioned your family just now. Can you tell us a bit about that – what are your connections to Nigeria, in terms of your heritage?

It’s from my grandparents. Actually, it’s from my great-great-grandparents, if I said that right. Let me see…1, 2 (counts on his fingers)…yeah I said it right. 

So what’s your PB in the 100 metres?

9.95 seconds

Wow, that’s impressive. When did you do that?

In 2010.

What are your hopes for the Commonwealth Games, and competing for Team Nigeria generally – do you think you can take your PB lower? 

Actually, I know I can because for the last 2 years I have dealt with injuries so it’s been a climb to get back. I know where my training is at, and I know where I am at. I’ve only been here a week, and it usually takes my body up to 10 days to get acclimated, so I know that I am sub-10 ready. For the Commonwealth Games I am looking to make sure that I win, with something around the 9.8 range, because I will have time to get there and get used to it. Athletes are different and bodies are different. Some athletes can get acclimated quicker, some take longer. I’ve been doing this sport for some years now and it takes me about 10 days. 

You better get to Glasgow quickly then?

Yeah I already told them, I need to be in Glasgow like 2 weeks before!

Is this your first time in Nigeria? What has the experience been like so far?

Yes. So far I have loved. I have to be honest with you, I have loved every bit of it. The weather is a bit hot, but other than that it’s been wonderful

Final question for you. Best to get this out of the way now because you will get it later on down the line – can you tell us about the gold teeth?

Well, I had an accident back in 2013 – I actually have a metal plate in my chin, and I lost some teeth in the accident, so I had my mouth wired shut for 3 months, so that’s actually how I got the gold teeth. 

Was it a car accident?

No actually I fainted – I had a mild seizure and when I fell, I fell on my face. So this is a metal plate – I lost all these teeth at the top, and the ones at the bottom don’t work as the nerves are dead. 

Wow, so there’s a good reason for it.

Oh yeah, yeah. It’s not for fashion! Definitely not for fashion! 

Monzavous 'Jolomi' Edwards, recently switched allegiances from Team USA, and placed second in the 100 metres at the 2014 Nigerian Trials

Monzavous ‘Jolomi’ Edwards, recently switched allegiances from Team USA, and placed second in the 100 metres at the 2014 Nigerian Trials

Athlete Interview: TYRON AKINS – Nigeria’s 110m Hurdles Champion, formerly of Team USA!!!

2 Jul Tyron 'Toritseju' Akins, 2014 Nigerian 110m Hurdles Champion, 
recently switched allegiances from Team USA

28 year-old Tyron Akins, winner of the 100m Hurdles at the 2014 Nigerian Trials (in a time of 13.66 seconds) speaks exclusively to MAKING OF CHAMPIONS on his decision to switch from Team USA to Team Nigeria, and on his family links to Nigeria! 

Tyron, how are you feeling about your win here at the Nigerian Trials?

I’m feel pretty good, we had a little delay just before with the women’s hurdles, where something went wrong with the timing system, but I was able to re-focus on the task at hand which was trying to win the race.

Now you were also at the Warri Relays last week – how did you do over there?

Well I felt really good about the Warri Relays but unfortunately I hit hurdles 5 and 6 and that pretty much put me out of the race. Being a hurdler those types of things happen, so I was put out of the race by that – I came fourth though.

So is this your first time competing in Nigeria, and for Nigeria?

Yes it is.

Could you tell us about how you came to switch from the US to represent Nigeria?

Well, it was an opportunity that arose for me, so I was like yeah, I would like to do that. I have always followed Nigeria Track & Field as well, being that I am good friends with Blessing (Okagbare), so I’ve always kept up with what was happening over here. So when the opportunity arose for me to do it, I was able to take advantage of it. So I’m here now!

Do you have any family or heritage from Nigeria?

I do, I do. Uhm…somewhere down the line but it’s there!

A lot of Nigerians will be wondering – how does it work? Don’t you have to have some kind of close parentage or family links in Nigeria to make the switch?

You’ve got to have some sort of proof that you have that family. At least that’s my understanding, and I was lucky enough to go down the family tree to find that.

So how far down the family tree does it go?

I don’t know exactly, but I think it was pretty deep!

So what is your Personal Best in the 100m Hurdles and when did you do it?

My PB is 13.25 seconds, and I did that in 2008. So it’s been a while, but from 2009 to 2012, I was consistently in the 13.30’s, and I had an off year in 2013, so I’m trying to get back to form now, and everything is falling into place it should be.

Now that you’re getting started with your Nigeria career, what are your hopes for the future, starting with the Commonwealth Games?

The goal is to medal, to consistently get on the podium. I think, whenever you represent any country, you want to consistently be on the podium, or in contention for the podium. So everything I am doing is to try to medal at every Championships – Commonwealth, African Championships, All-Africa Games next year, then the World Championships, the Olympics and all of that. So those are my goals for now.

Have you competed before (for Team USA) at a World Championships or an Olympics?

No I have not.

So that’s something to look forward to?

Absolutely, and I can’t wait!

How fast are you on the flat (100 metres)? You know that our guys need some help in that department…

Well, it’s a mix, because on record they’ve got me at 10.78s into a 2.0 m/s headwind, but I think my best was 10.49s

So you think you might try out the flat at some point?

No, can’t do it! Can’t do it!

Ok, congratulations again, and thank you for your time!

Thank you

Tyron 'Toritseju' Akins, 2014 Nigerian 110m Hurdles Champion,  recently switched allegiances from Team USA

Tyron ‘Toritseju’ Akins, 2014 Nigerian 110m Hurdles Champion,
recently switched allegiances from Team USA

 

EXCLUSIVE Interview (Part I) with MAURICE GREENE, former 100m world record holder & Team Nigeria’s new Relay Coordinator!

23 Jun Maurice Greene 1

MAURICE GREENE, Former World Record Holder, Olympic GOLD Medallist and 3-time World Champion in the 100 metres, speaks EXCLUSIVELY to MAKING OF CHAMPIONS about his rivalries with Nigerian athletes during his illustrious career, and his recent appointment as Team Nigeria’s Relay Coordinator!

You were the 100m World Record Holder with a time of 9.79s between 1999 and 2005. What were some of the greatest rivalries you had against Nigerian Athletes in that time?

At that time, (Francis) Obikwelu. Though I don’t know if he had switched countries yet, but he was probably my biggest rival. 

He was still representing Nigeria at the 1999 World Championships in Seville, when you won the 200 metre title and he was third. Can you tell us a little about that?

Well, it was a great rivalry. He kind of startled me in the semi-final because he ran that race so easily. He ran 19.84 seconds, and I was like ‘uh-oh’, I am really going to have to do something in the final, so I kind of changed up my game plan a little bit. I knew I had to change up and put more pressure on him in the race.

You won the final with a time of 19.90s, so if he had run that fast in the final, you would have lost it?

Well yeah that’s true, but each race is different. It all depends on who’s in the race and what happens during the race, that’s all.

If we recall correctly, Obikwelu pipped you to the Silver medal in the 100 metres at the Athens 2004 Olympics in a time of 9.86s – by then he was running for Portugal – while you took the Bronze in 9.87s?

Yeah – that was my fault though, because in the semi-final I slowed down too much at the end and he leaned and took second, so that pushed me to an outside lane for the final. I like being in the middle of the track, because when somebody moves I can move to go faster. So that messed me up – it put me in lane 7, so I only had Obadele Thompson from Barbados in Lane 8, and Asafa Powell in Lane 6, but everything happened in lanes 3, 4 and 5. So that messed me up, but you know I say it’s my fault, so it happens. You go through race strategies and race plans and everything else, so you’ve got to live with what happens. 

Another famous race for Nigeria at that Olympics was the 4×100 metre relay, and we distinctly remember Deji Aliu receiving the baton on the anchor leg for Nigeria at the same time you did for Team USA, and you eventually just missed out on the GOLD to Team GB by one hundredths of a second, with Nigeria taking the Bronze?

Yeah it was tough, because at those Olympics I lost 2 GOLD medals by three hundredths of a second – miserable day. I mean, you can’t even blink that fast. But you know what? It happens…

Let’s talk about your current appointment at the Relay Coordinator for Team Nigeria. What are your hopes and expectations for the role? What do you think you can bring to Nigerian Athletics? 

I don’t hope anything. Nigeria has a lot of great athletes here, and we just have to bring out that talent. They brought me in to mentor a lot of them and just help put everything together so that they can start producing the medals like they should. They haven’t been doing it in the past few years, and things need to change, so it’s my job to come in and try to change things, and try to make sure that the world sees the exact talent that Nigeria really has. So that’s what I plan on doing.

Do you have any of the athletes under your direct tutelage as their coach?

Yeah, I have a couple of them. I don’t work with them every day, but we have training camps, and I speak to a lot of them through email and on the phone, so it’s all of the above.

Let’s do a quick recap of the World Relays in the Bahamas – the girls had a great performance in the 4x400m relay, with the third fastest time ever by a Nigerian quartet in the event. What can you say about our performance at the World Relays?

Yeah, I think that was just a start of what we are beginning. It’s going to get better from there. That is just the start of it. At the World Relays, I had just been with the team for a couple of months, and I think the women did a very good job there. But I expect more out of them, and they know that I expect more from them. I get them to believe that they should expect more also, so good things – no, great things – are yet to come! 

Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion of this exclusive interview with Maurice Greene, during his first ever trip to Nigeria for the National Trials in Calabar, where he weighs in on the recent trend of American athletes switching allegiances to Nigeria! 

Maurice Greene, Team Nigeria's Relay Coordinator, at the UJ Esuene Stadium, Calabar, during the 2014 Nigerian Athletics Championships

Maurice Greene, Team Nigeria’s Relay Coordinator, at the UJ Esuene Stadium, Calabar, during the 2014 Nigerian Athletics Championships

Nigeria misses Women’s 4x100m World Relay Bronze medal by a hundredth of a second!

25 May IMG_6139

It was a case of close but yet so far for Team Nigeria’s girls, as they missed out on what could have been Nigeria’s very first medal at the Inaugural World Relay Championships on Saturday. The quartet of Gloria Asumnu, Blessing Okagbare, Dominique Duncan and Francesca Okwara finished in a season’s best time of 42.67s, behind Team USA (41.88s), Jamaica (42.28s) and Trinidad & Tobago (42.66s):

This was an extremely commendable run for the quartet, especially considering the Duncan and Okwara were competing for Nigeria for the very first time. They had also run a season’s best in the Heats, with a 42.77s run that qualified them for the final behind Jamaica. In the Final, they were just 3 hundredths of a second off the time that the quartet of Christy Udoh, Gloria Asumnu, Oludamola Osayomi & Blessing Okagbare ran at the London Olympics, also for 4th place.

Despite the narrow loss of the Bronze medal, Nigerians can take solace from the fact that by virtue of finishing in the Top 8 in this event at the World Relays, our women’s 4x100m team have qualified automatically for the 2015 World Championships in Beijing! Let’s applaud them for a job well done – with Team USA not taking part in the Commonwealth Games in July/August, This Nigeria team should be a shoe-in for a Commonwealth Games medal, providing they can get the baton round safely! 

Here’s what the Team Nigeria ladies had to say after the race:

Blessing Okagbare

You missed out on the Bronze by a hundredth of a second – how can the team take this performance?

I think it was okay, it’s a totally new group and we’re just getting to know each other. We’re working on certain things, so I think we did okay

You ran a Season’s Best (SB) in the final, can you take some encouragement from that?

We ran an SB in the heats and the finals, so that’s something to go home with. I think that’s one of the fastest that the Nigeria team has actually done, so I think it’s great for us going forward.

I think you were only 0.4 seconds away from the Nigerian and African Record? Do you think this team can break that record this year or next year?

We will be able to break it – this is a new team, so once the girls start running faster we will do it. Like I said, we’re just getting to know each other and learning so much from each other.

So this team should be in good frame to get a medal at the Commonwealth Games?

Yeah, we’re looking forward to that!

Gloria Asumnu

How do you feel about missing the Bronze by a hundredth of a second? 

I mean that hurts, because it’s like you’re right there. This is the first time that the four of us have run together, believe it or not. We haven’t done many handoffs, so it’s a good sign for what’s to come, we just need to come together as a team and do what we need to do for the Commonwealth Games, and for the following year

You ran SBs in the heats and finals and not very far away from the Nigerian and African Record?

Yes, that’s something we’re chasing, but at the same time we just want to stay healthy and be able to get better individually, so when we come together as four (the improvement) is automatic

What are your hopes for the Commonwealth Games, individually and relay?

Individually, we need to bring home medals. Everyone, no matter what event it is – make the finals and bring home medals! For the relays, we’re keen to focus on that too because, you know, Nigeria loves relays! It’s about team unity, so to bring home a GOLD would be excellent!

Francesca Okwara

This is the first time you’re competing for Nigeria – can you tell Nigerians back home a bit about yourself? What can we expect from you in the coming years?

Well, I grew up in Memphis but my dad was born in Nigeria – he’s from Imo State. I run the 100 and 200 metres – you can look out for me to become one of the top sprinters for Nigeria in the future.

Fantastic – what are your Personal Bests (PBs) in the 100m & 200m?

11.4 seconds in the 100 metres, and 23.3 seconds in the 200 metres

Have you been to Nigeria recently? When will you be coming next?

Actually I’ve never been – I’ll be coming for the first time in June, for the Commonwealth Games Trials. I hope to lower my PBs, to 11.2 in the 100 metres and to 23 low in the 200 metres.

 

Nigeria’s 5th RELAY Medal – Women’s 4x400m SIlver @ Atlanta ’96

18 May 4x400m women Atlanta '96 3

Nigeria’s 5th Global Relay Medal was won in a race that is widely regarded as one of the greatest relay races of all time, the women’s 4×400 metres at Atlanta ’96. Those were truly the glory days for the women’s 400 metres in Nigeria, as the nation had no less than THREE  sub-50 second quarter-milers in Fatima Yusuf, Charity Opara and  Falilat Ogunkoya. They were joined by Olabisi Afolabi, who ran the first leg in this awesome quartet that fought Team USA right to the very end! This was one race that you thought Team Nigeria had in the bag after the first two legs, but somehow Ogunkoya received the baton on the anchor leg some 10 metres behind USA’s Jearl Miles, but she still made it a completely riveting contest:

Team Nigeria’s time of 3:21.04 in this race still stands as the African Record in the women’s 4×400 metres, and it will take some beating – Nigeria is the only country in Africa that has the pedigree, and the current potential in women’s 400 metres to one day match this epic quartet. That said, current Nigerian 400m Champion, Regina George is the only athlete in the current quartet running under 51 seconds – we’ll need at least THREE solid sub-50 second runners to match the class of ’96!

The jewel in the crown of the ’96 set was undoubtedly Falilat Ogunkoya, still the African Record Holder in the 400 metres at 49.10s, by virtue of her fantastic individual Bronze medal at the same games – she is one of only 3 Nigerians in history that are Double Olympic Medallists, and she has the unique distinction of being the only Nigerian to win TWO medals at the SAME Olympic Games! She made history by running under 50 seconds a whopping NINETEEN times in her careereven Great Britain’s greatest athlete, Christine Ohuruogu has only done it FIVE times in her whole career!

 

The World Relays is a new annual competition (the 1st edition being held in The Bahamas on May 24th/25th), where the world’s best Track & Field nations will compete over 10 different events – 4x100m, 4x200m, 4x400m, 4x800m & 4x1500m (both men and  women). There is a total prize fund of $1.4  million up for grabs, and for the 4x100m & 4x400m, the 2014 World Relays will serve as the qualifiers for the 2015 World Championships (as will the 2015 World Relays for the 2016 Olympics). For viewers in Nigeria and Africa, the World Relays will show LIVE on SuperSports on May 24th/25th – more details soon!

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A personal commentary of sports issues in Nigeria and the world

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