Archive | October, 2014

Cote d’ Ivoire – a Rising Force in African Sprints

30 Oct

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).

IMG_0369 copy - Okagbare & Murielle

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(Photo Credit: Getty Images).

(Photo Credit: Getty Images).

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

(Photo Credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images).

(Photo Credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images).

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

23 Oct

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

6. FOLASHADE ABUGAN:

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

5. DIVINE ODUDURU:

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

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

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

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

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3. WOMEN’S 4X400M RELAY TEAM:

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

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

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

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

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

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2. ESE BRUME:

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

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

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1. BLESSING OKAGBARE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

21 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

9 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo Credit: Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters)

(Photo Credit: Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters)

(Photo Credit: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images AsiaPac)

(Photo Credit: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images AsiaPac)

(Photo Credit: Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters)

(Photo Credit: Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters)

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

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

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

(Photo credit: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images AsiaPac)

(Photo credit: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images AsiaPac)

(Photo credit: AP)

(Photo credit: AP)

Gyang defies the rain to defend Lagos International Beach Marathon Title

2 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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