Nigeria’s outstanding 4x400m women’s relay team capped a remarkable season with their fourth back-to-back title at the African Championships on the final day of competition in Marrakech, Morocco. The team comprising of Patience George Okon, Regina George, Ada Benjamin and Folashade Abugan consolidated on the team’s impressive performance this season by sprinting to their first GOLD medal of 2014 with a time of 3:28.87s, with Kenya and Botswana following in their wake in second and third with 3:32.26s and 3:40.28s respectively.
The team won bronze at the inaugural IAAF World Relays in May, and then upgraded to silver at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow barely two weeks ago, before striking gold in Marrakech. It remains to be seen the colour of silverware they would claim when the IAAF Continental Cup gets underway in Marrakech a month from now!
Their male counterparts also won their first medal of the season as they took silver in 3:03.09 as they relinquished their crown to Botswana, who had the current record holder over 400m, Isaac Makwala as the anchor leg of the race. Botswana took the title with a National Record (NR) of 3:01.89s, while Kenya finished in third place with 3:07.35s. Noah Akwu, Robert Simmons, Miles Ukaoma and Amaechi Morton represented Nigeria in the race.
The first medal of the evening was won by Amaka Ogoegbunam in the women’s 400m hurdles, as she finished second in the 400m hurdles behind South Africa’s Wenda Theron Nel who clocked 55.32s to win gold. The Nigerian champion posted 55.46s while Kenya’s Francisca Koki finished third with a National Record of 55.84s.
Chinwe Okoro added another silver in the women’s shot put event where she recorded a distance of 16.40m, while Cameroun’s Sally Dongmo won with 16.84m. Nwanneka Okwelogu placed fourth with 15.14m. The duo won GOLD and Silver in the discus event the day before, with Okoro taking the title with a National Record (NR) of 59.79m.
Dominique Duncan was a surprise Bronze medallist in the women’s 200m as defending champion Gloria Asumnu relinquished her title to Cote D’Ivoire’s Murielle Ahouré who won the crown in 22.36s, while her team mate, Marie Ta Lou Gonezie placed second with 22.87s. Duncan returned a time of 22.98s while Asumnu and Regina George finished fifth and sixth respectively with 23.31s and 23.53s respectively.
In the men’s 200m, Nigeria’s only finalist, Divine Oduduru finished in sixth with a time of 20.81s, in the race that was won by Cote d’Ivoire’s Wilfried Koffi Hua who added the 200m title with an NR of 20.25s to the 100m crown he won two days earlier. Oduduru, who ran a wind-assisted 20.25s in Oregon last month to claim a World Junior Silver said after the race that Nigerians should expect more from him in the near future.
National Champion in the women’s triple jump, Blessing Ibukun Ibrahim, finished in third with a leap of 13.35m, behind Cameroun’s Joelle Mbumi who took gold in 14.02m, and Nadia Eke of Ghana (13.40m).
Overall Nigeria finished second on the medals table with eight gold, nine silver and seven bronze medals, while South Africa take over as the Continent’s Champions with ten gold, five silver and four bronze medals. Kenya (seven gold, eight silver, ten bronze medals), Botswana (four gold, one silver, one bronze) and Cote d’Ivoire (three gold, four silver, one bronze) completed the list of teams in the Top 5. It will be recalled that Nigeria emerged overall champions in the last edition of the Championship, which was held in Port Novo, Benin Republic two years ago.