Tag Archives: Commonwealth Games

Brume comes of age as she claims Long Jump GOLD! Okagbare’s absence is “Blessing in Disguise”…

1 Aug

Ese Brume became Nigeria’s new Long Jump sensation on Thursday night as she jumped to a distance 0f 6.56m to claim the Long Jump crown at the ongoing Commonwealth Games! England’s Jazmin Sawyers was second with 6.54m while Canada’s Christabel Netty placed third. One of the favourites of the competition and home girl, Shara Proctor (C’wealth No.3) had to pull out of the event after picking up an injury while attempting her first jump. Despite only qualifying for the final in 12th place with a 6.29m jump, Brume’s went into Silver medal position with 6.43m in her very first jump in the final. Her winning jump of 6.56m came in Round 3 and she subsequently did not relinquish the lead again!

Ese Brume on the podium, celebrating her C'wealth GOLD in the Long Jump!

Ese Brume on the podium, celebrating her C’wealth GOLD in the Long Jump!

Even though Brume came into the Games as Nigeria’s 2014 National Champion, not much was expected from her following a surprisingly out-of-sorts performance at the World Junior Championships in Eugene last week, where she failed to qualify for the final, only able to record one valid leap of 5.18m. As such, the Commonwealth GOLD medal performance represents a dramatic turnaround in just a few days for an athlete who was touted as a possible World Junior Champion but suffered the ignominy of finishing bottom of her qualifying group at those championships. Whatever the reasons behind that performance were, all is now forgotten! With Brume becoming the Commonwealth CHAMPION this early in her career, she has announced her arrival to the world with a bang, much like Okagbare did in winning an Olympic Bronze in the same event at Beijing ’08!

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Speaking of Okagbare, most will have assumed that the Long Jump GOLD was out of Nigeria’s reach following her opting out of the event for the 200m. But in hindsight it would seem that Okagbare’s absence was actually a Blessing in Disguise (no pun intended)! It allowed Brume the opportunity to compete with and triumph over several good, evenly-matched jumpers at similarly early stages of their careers, for the most part. Brume will now be in a prime position to follow Okagbare in developing into as world-class athlete over the next few years. As with Blessing, will we see Ese eventually diversify into the sprints? With her elegant frame and current PB of 11.80s in the 100m set in the domestic Golden League this year, we would not bet against her one day making serious waves on the global sprint scene!

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Ese Brume first came into national reckoning after winning the Long Jump at the 2012 National Sports Festival in Lagos, as well as two silver medals in the triple jump and high jump! She also scooped a silver medal for Nigeria during last year’s African Junior Championships in Mauritius!

Ese Brume at the Nigerian Trials in Calabar, on her way to winning the 2014 National Title

Ese Brume at the Nigerian Trials in Calabar, on her way to winning the 2014 National Title

 

 

Blessing Okagbare opts out of Long Jump to chase 200m GLORY @ C’wealth Games!

30 Jul

Blessing Okagbare fans could well be in for a treat and a complete spectacle in the women’s 200m at the Commonwealth Games, as the newly crowned 100m Commonwealth Champion is the red hot favourite to complete the sprint double with the 200 metre crown on Thursday night! Such is Blessing’s class beyond the rest of the Commonwealth field in the 200m, that it may simply be Blessing versus the clock. She took Debbie Ferguson’s 100m Commonwealth Games Record on Monday night, and may just take the same woman’s 200m Games Record (22.20s) on Thursday. The big question is: does Blessing just want the GOLD, or does she want to lay down a marker for years to come, by attacking Mary Onyali’s 18-year-old 200m African Record of 22.07 seconds?

Okagbare has been imperious form in the 200m this year, having made it her event of focus recently, despite starting out as a long jumper and then a 100m sprinter. She is 2nd fastest in the world this year with a PB of 22.23s, behind USA’s Tori Bowie (22.18s), she holds FOUR of the 10 fastest times this season and is leading the 200m Diamond Race. Her closest Commonwealth  competitor is Anthonique Strachan, the 2012 Double World Junior Champion and 9th fastest in the world this year with 22.50s, but she has inexplicably not been entered for the 200m – one imagines it could only be due to injury:

2014 CWG Womens 200 list FINAL

That leaves her main threat once again most likely to come from the Jamaicans – McLaughlin, Henry-Robinson and Calvert, who are 6th, 11th and 13th respectively in the Commonwealth this season, but ALL half a second slower than Okagbare. England’s Jodie Williams is the fastest Commonwealth athlete after Blessing competing in the 200m, after setting a PB of 22.60s this season, and while Williams will be a home nations favourite for a medal, she will almost certainly be fighting with the Jamaicans for Silver and Bronze!

An interesting sub-plot is Dominique Duncan’s first outing in an individual event for Nigeria, after switching from Team USA and coming within a hundredth of second to 4x100m Bronze at the World Relays with Team Nigeria! She’s No. 10 in the Commonwealth this year with a PB of 22.82s in April, and if she can replicate that she could also be in amongst the medals. That said, she only ran 23.91s in placing 3rd at the Nigerian Trials in June, so it will be interesting to see what kind of form she is coming into the Games with!

Some Okagbare fans will be disappointed to learn that she opted NOT to compete in the Long Jump at these Games – her compatriot Ese Brume competed in the Heats for that event on Wednesday morning, qualifying for the finals which will take place on Thursday evening, in between the women’s 200 metres semis and finals! From a scheduling point of view, it would have been virtually impossible for Okagbare to attempt TWO 200m races and SIX jumps in the Long Jump on the same night! She has taken the wisest decision, as the sprint double will be the far more widely recognised feat than the 100m and Long Jump combination!

One might recall that last year, Blessing failed to win a 100m medal in the World Championship final because she had taken 6 jumps the night before to win Long Jump Silver, and didn’t have enough time to recover to successfully execute two rounds of the 100m the next day. Clearly, the ‘scheduling gods’ are not working in her favour – global meet organisers will have to accord her the same privilege that they once showed to the likes of Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson, arranging their schedules around these superstars, if we’re ever going to see her attempt to go for THREE individual medals at major competitions!

Blessing is already Africa’s fastest woman ever in the 100m after smashing Glory Alozie’s 14-year-old record last year. The big question on Thursday will be, does she want a ‘Double Portion’ and take the 200m African Record as well? With her 10.85 second 100-metre speed in awesome display on Monday, something tells us that if Blessing decides she wants to re-write the 200 metre history books on Thursday night, she just might!

MoC PREDICTION: Barring injury, Nigeria’s favourite daughter Blessing Okagbare will WIN 200m GOLD on Thursday night, and could get the Commonwealth Games Record of 22.20s, but she might not yet be ready to break Mary Onyali’s African Record (22.07s). Even if she doesn’t get the record, we may  be about to witness the BIGGEST EVER winning margin in a global 200m final, since a certain Usain Bolt, ofcourse!

Dominique Duncan should make the final of the 200 metres, and getting a medal would be a huge boost for the 24-year-old. But can she put three rounds of 200 metres together in two days and run fast enough in the final to be in medal contention? The honest truth is that we have not seen enough of her to make a firm prediction on that just yet!

Round 1 of the Commonwealth Games 200 metres kicks off TONIGHT (Wednesday), with Blessing Okagbare in Heat 1 at 9.15pm and Dominique Duncan in Heat 6 at 9.45pmDON’T MISS IT!

The semi-finals start at 6.07pm on Thursday, with the Final shortly after at 8.45pm!

 

 

Mixed fortunes for Nigeria as Abugan makes 400m Commonwealth Games Final

29 Jul

Team Nigeria’s conquest for medals took a dramatic turn on Day 2 of athletics at the Hampden Park in Glasgow as Nigeria’s No.1, Folashade Abugan was the only one of three athletes to qualify from the semi-finals of the women’s 400m at the ongoing Commonwealth Games, through to the final on Tuesday night.

Abugan competed in Heat 2 of the semis, and missed out on automatic qualification as she finished third behind Jamaica’s Christine Day (51.02) and Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas in 2nd with 51.58s. However Abugan’s time of 51.71s qualified her as one of the fastest losers, along with Kineke Alexander of St. Vincent and the Grenadines who posted 52.12s behind Abugan.

Folashade Abugan at the World Relays in the Bahamas. She is Nigeria's 400m Champion in 2014, winning at the  Nigerian National Championships in 51.39s!

Folashade Abugan at the World Relays in the Bahamas. She is Nigeria’s 400m Champion in 2014, winning at the Nigerian National Championships in 51.39s!

Unfortunately, her compatriots, Omolara Omotosho and Regina George had no such luck as they both failed to make it to the final, after finishing 3rd and 6th respectively. Omotosho competed in Heat 1 and came agonizingly close to automatic qualification; she however missed out on a place in the final as she finished 3rd in 52.34s, trailing Jamaica’s Stephanie McPherson (50.69s) and Kelly Massey of England (52.19s) who beat her near the line as she started to tie up and lose her form in the final straight. 

More surprising was the performance of Regina George who finished a distant sixth with 53.48s in Heat 3 which was won by the Commonwealth’s top athlete, Novlene Williams-Mills in 50.73s. The Jamaican was followed by defending champion, Amantle Montsho (50.96s) and England’s Margaret Adeoye who returned a time of 52.48s in 3rd. George, the darling of many Nigerian fans could not replicate the form that saw her inspire Nigeria to a bronze medal finish at the inaugural edition of the IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas earlier this year. Rumour has it that the 22-year old was carrying an injury after the heats, and as such couldn’t post a performance deserving of a place in the final. One wonders though why she was picked ahead of Patience Okon George, who finished ahead of her in the National Trials in third place, and really ought to have run the individual 400m, unless she was injured!

Abugan will be engaged in the battle for supremacy ahead of Tuesday’s final when she goes against a star-studded field which includes Williams-Mills, Day and Montsho (1st, 2nd and 3rd fastest in the Commonwealth this year). She comes to the field with the second slowest time and will need to extra inspiration if she is to get to the podium on Tuesday. As we predicted yesterday, Abugan was the surest bet to reach the final, and is so doing confirms her position as Nigeria’s No. 1 this year. She will have to watch out for the Jamaicans who coincidentally dominated the various heats. Can she pull of the same kind of upset that saw her dethrone Regina George as national champion?

 

Okagbare faces stiff test for 100m Commonwealth GOLD, Asumnu is a possible finalist!

26 Jul

Exactly 20 years ago, one of the country’s most outstanding athletes, Mary Onyali returned a time of 11.06secs to win the women’s 100m at the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada, and Nigeria’s sprint queen, Blessing Okagbare will be aiming for same as Athletics takes off in Glasgow on Sunday.

However, Okagbare, who is the nation’s brightest prospect at the games, will have her work cut out for her as she goes head-to-head with Trinidad and Tobago’s Michelle-Lee Ahye and Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown in a bid to secure her first Commonwealth Games title two decades after a Nigerian last won the crown.

Compatriot, Damola Osayomi won the 100m in Delhi four years ago but had to be stripped of the medal and banned after her doping test came back positive for the stimulant methylhexanamine, while Natasha Mayers of St. Vincent and the Grenadines was elevated to first position.

Okagbare recently ran a Season’s Best (SB) of 10.97secs at the Monaco Diamond League, but Ahye is unbeaten in the 100m this season, as is  USA’s Tori Bowie, who currently World Leader this year with 10.80secs. Ahye tops the Commonwealth ranking with the world’s second fastest time of 10.85s, while Campbell-Brown follows closely with 10.86s:

2014 CWG Womens 100 list copy

Even though Okagbare comes to the competition with the third fastest time, she could still storm to gold at the Hampden Park on Monday if she is able to rediscover the form that saw her lower the African 100m record to 10.79s – that time would almost certainly claim GOLD but given that Blessing has been concentrating on the 200 metres this season, this might have had an effect on both her speed and her confidence to claim the 100m crown!

Fellow Nigerian Gloria Asumnu also looks like a good bet for the 100m final as she occupies the 13th position in Commonwealth with a time of 11.15secs – even though EIGHT of the athletes ahead of her are Jamaican, only 3 of them can compete at the Games!

MoC PREDICTION: Our heart say GOLD for Blessing, but our head says it will be Silver or Bronze in the 100 metres. Gloria will do well to get to the final, but a medal will be out of her reach, unless she can run a PB and go under 11 seconds.

The good news is, with these two in our 4x100m team, they should be in good shape for a Relay medal next weekend! (Silver or Bronze – Jamaica will get the GOLD, unless they drop the baton or are disqualified)!

 

Nigeria’s American Athletes – Are they good enough to win Commonwealth Medals?

26 Jul

There has been much controversy and talk since June at the Nigerian Trials for the Commonwealth Games, which heralded a new era of American Athletes with little or no clear lineage from Nigeria attending and dominating at those National Championships. While there has been widespread disapproval by some former Nigerian Olympians and local coaches of this new practice of recruiting Americans to represent Nigeria, there has also been a lingering school of thought which has followed the reasoning that, surely if they are better than what we have at home, they should be allowed to represent Nigeria? IF they can win medals for Team Nigeria at international competitions, then why not?

Well, here at MAKING OF CHAMPIONS we have crunched some very interesting numbers, to show you exactly what chance (IF ANY) our new American recruits have of winning medals at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, where the Athletics programme is kicking off tomorrow. We have EXCLUSIVELY put together 2014 Commonwealth Athlete rankings to analyse Nigeria’s medal chances in FOUR events that our new Athletes will be competing in – the men’s 100m, 200m, 11om Hurdles, and the women’s 100m Hurdles!

Today, we analyse the chances of Nigeria’s current 100m  Champion, 30-year-old Mark Jelks, and runner-up in both 100m and 200m at the Nigerian trials, 33-year-old Monzavous Edwards, both of whom recently switched allegiances from Team USA to Team Naija. Have they improved Nigeria’s mens sprint pool?

*Divine Oduduru ran a wind-assisted 20.25s (2.3m/s) to win Silver at World Juniors in Eugene on July 25th 2014. Had the wind not been above the 2.0m/s limit for records, he would place 11th in the 200m list!

*Divine ran a wind-assisted 20.25s (2.3 m/s) to win Silver at World Juniors in Eugene on July 25th 2014. Had the wind not been above the 2 m/s limit for records, he would place 11th in the 200m list!

Despite the fact that Jelks is CURRENTLY faster than anyone else on Team Nigeria in the 100 metres, he only places 30th among Commonwealth Athletes in 2014 – ahead of him are EIGHT Jamaicans, SEVEN Brits, FOUR Trinadadians, TWO South Africans, TWO from St Kitts & Nevis and one each from four other countries. Even when you take into account that each country can only enter three athletes per event, it becomes very apparent that Jelks may well struggle to reach the Commonwealth 100m final, let alone win a medal! The odds of Edwards reaching the 100m final are even much slimmer – he’s only ranked 64th amongst Commonwealth athletes this year, and would be very difficult the argue that he is an upgrade from the likes of upcoming 22 year old Seye Ogunlewe, and former Nigerian Champions Egwero and Metu.

Mark 'Amuju' Jelks, 2014 Nigerian 100m Champion, recently switched allegiances from Team USA

Mark ‘Amuju’ Jelks, 2014 Nigerian 100m Champion, recently switched allegiances from Team USA

The emergence of Divine Oduduru with a World Junior Silver in the 200 metres in a stunning wind-assisted time of 20.25s also further calls into question the necessity (or indeed the wisdom) of recruiting older Americans to represent Nigeria. Oduduru, who could be representing Nigeria for another ten years or more, had already comfortably beaten 33-year-old Edwards at the Nigeria Trials with a time of 20.87s to 21.34s, a time that does not even rank Edwards in the top 100 in the Commonwealth for 200 metres this year – indeed only one year in his whole career did he run faster than 20.40s (he has a 20.17s PB from 2009). It would be surprising to see Edwards make it out of Round 1 in Glasgow, if he indeed attempts the 200 metres this week. There are already calls for Oduduru to be flown directly from Glasgow to Eugene to compete in the 200 metres which starts on Wednesday, so that Nigeria could have a decent showing in the event!

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

Finally, given all the countries listed above who have TWO or more athletes in the 100m Top 30 (Jamaica, England, Trinidad & Tobago, South Africa, St Kitts & Nevis) and even the Bahamas who has THREE in the top 35, we have to say that it is also rather unlikely that Nigeria will get a medal in the men’s 4x100m Relay next weekend, and the presence of the Americans does absolutely nothing to change that…

MoC PREDICTIONS for the men’s sprints:

Men’s 100 metres – Jelks could scrape into the 100m final in Glasgow, but a semi-final outing is most likely. Egwero & Edwards should reach the Semis too, but one of them may fall in the first round!

Men’s 200 metres – Edwards will not make it out of the first round, especially if he has contested the 100 metres already. Oduduru could possibly make the Semis, but will also fall in the 1st round IF he doesn’t arrive in Glasgow well ahead of Wednesday to get some much needed rest.

Men’s 4×100 metres – With or without the Americans in the squad, Team Nigeria should reach the final, but without some unexpected baton drops or lane infringements from 2 or 3 countries ahead of us, don’t expect a medal. Stranger things have happened we suppose, so one can still hope!

MoC VERDICT: The American recruits have NOT sufficiently improved Nigeria’s mens sprint pool to really justify their inclusion. We will stand corrected if they are able to prove our predictions wrong in the coming days!

 

 

 

MAKING OF CHAMPIONS celebrates 1-year anniversary with new LOGO!

16 Jul

Making of Champions (MoC) Ltd, the company founded by Sports Entrepreneur & Film-Maker Bambo Akani, is a year old this month, and ahead of the start of the Commonwealth Games next week, we are celebrating our 1-year anniversary with the launch of this AWESOME brand new logo!

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The Making of Champions Movement has come a long way in the past year. It all started with the Making of Champions: “The History” film, which was made to showcase Nigeria’s rich Olympic medal history in Athletics (Track & Field) and lays the foundation for how Nigeria can return to reckoning on the world stage! And that is what this movement is all about. The first major highlight for the company came in August 2013 following the World Championships in Moscow, when the then Nigerian Sports Minister, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, personally commended MoC Founder Bambo Akani for his reporting on this blog of Blessing Okagbare winning Nigeria’s first World Championship medals in 14 years. At the behest of the Minister, Bambo was flown in from London to Abuja as a Sports Consultant to help run a 3-day strategy session on installing a High Performance System for Sports in Nigeria!

2013 ended with an international roadshow for Making of Champions: “The History”, where we took the film to 4 different cities across 3 continents, including Atlanta, London and Abuja, where the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) President and Technical Director, Solomon Ogba and Omatseye Nesiama, were our special guests, along with Nigeria’s newly appointed High Performance Directors for Athletics and all Sports respectively, Eric Campbell and Angie Taylor! The film consequently premiered at the iREP Documentary Film Festival in March 2014 and has received rave reviews everywhere it has screened! A special pre-Commonwealth Games Screening will take place at Eko Hotel this Sunday July 20th at 4pm. This will be the Nigerian Athletics Event of the year – don’t miss it!

Another highlight of 2013 was the Road to Brazil Documentary Shoot, which took place in Salvador Da Bahia in Brazil during the World Cup Draw in December! It featured several Portuguese-speaking Nigerian Exchange Students from Obafemi Awolowo University who were in Salvador for their year abroad programme, and were lucky enough to be there when the Super Eagles played in the Confederations Cup! Road to Brazil also featured several Brazilians fans and an Argentinian super-fan showing their support for the Super Eagles, such was the goodwill for Nigeria in Salvador, a city infused with Nigerian and Yoruba cuisine, language and religion, passed on from the slaves who were taken there during the transatlantic slave trade centuries ago! Road to Brazil was released online as a series of shorts during the World Cup, in support of a Nigeria team that did the nation proud with a 2nd round showing!

At the very core of Making of Champions is the firm belief that Nigeria can become the No. 1 Track & Field nation in the world within 5 years, and 2014 has been all about setting those lofty ambitions into motion! MoC Social Media was launched in April 2014, and in just THREE months, the interest and engagement for Nigerian Athletics has been overwhelming – we already have well nearly 6,000 fans across our social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! Our YouTube Channel has over 60 videos with a combined 12,500 views since 2013, while the viewership of this blog has more than quadrupled from just 3,000 in 2013, to over 13,000 in the first seven months of 2014! We are steadily growing a fan base and viewership that will soon attract the support of Corporate Nigeria to our cause, which is to revolutionise Athletics in Nigeria!

With such unprecedented growth of our Athletics fan base, MoC Ltd has also has to expand to keep up with the high demand for our content. We brought on a team to help with our Social Media Launch in April, and since then we have also brought on volunteers to write stories for the blog and manage our social media handles! The expansion will continue and very soon we will be recruiting for full-time Social Media Managers and Sports Journalists to write our stories. Once we have investor or sponsor funding in place, we will also be making hires for Sports Administration and Management Professionals, as well as coaches, as we seek to launch Nigeria’s first ever Professional Track Club, to train athletes at home to become our future Olympic and World Champions!

Perhaps the highlight of 2014 so far has been our live media activation at the first ever World Relay Competition in the Bahamas, which MoC Founder Bambo Akani attended as an accredited photographer and captured Team Nigeria’s best images from the competition, including a fantastic Bronze medal in the women’s 4×400 metres. He also coordinated a poignant Bring Back Our Girls campaign which the whole Athletics community participated in, from the star athletes such as Blessing Okagbare, Christine Ohuruogu and Yohan Blake, right up to the IAAF President himself, Lamine Diack. Bambo also reported live from the Nigerian National Championships in June, and from March to June he appeared as an athletics pundit in a new weekly segment on the Sports Tonight Show with Toyin Ibitoye on Channels TV!

We’re only half way through the 2014 Athletics season, and we’re building up to our live activation at the Commonwealth Games in Scotland next week, as well as the African Athletics Championships in Morocco in August. There’s also still plenty more to come from the International Diamond League circuit, which we have been reporting on, including live social media during each event! These are truly exciting times for us, as we believe that this is the beginning of the revival of Team Nigeria at the Olympics! Join us in celebrating our 1-year anniversary at the special pre-Commonwealth Games Screening of Making of Champions: “The History” at Eko Hotel, VI, Lagos this Sunday at 4pm!

Regina George & Tosin Oke return to the Diamond League, as Okagbare goes for 200m record

10 Jul

Nigeria’s poster girl in the 400m, Regina George will make a much awaited return to the IAAF Diamond League, in the ninth leg, tagged the ‘Sainsbury’s Glasgow Grand Prix’ slated to hold on July 11 and 12 in the Scottish city which will be hosting the Commonwealth Games later this month.

George’s race, which comes up at 8.38pm on Friday (July 11), will count as only the second Diamond League event she has featured in this season. The first was in Shanghai (May 18) where she finished eighth with a time of 51.39s. The 23 year old has not recorded much progress in the individual 400m since then, though she did post a top-notch performance at the inaugural IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas, where she led Nigeria’s 4x400m to a bronze medal with an impressive 49.4s split on the second leg, which was the fastest by any athlete in the race.

Her chase for a third Nigerian title ended in a shock defeat for George, as she finished outside the podium during the national trials held in Calabar last month. Her fellow World Relay Bronze medallists finished ahead of her – Folashade Abugan won the title in 51.39s, with Omolara Omotosho and Patience Okon George crossing the finish line ahead of Regina, who placed fourth with 51.67s.

Nevertheless her victory in Tuesday’s Hungarian Athletics Grand Prix may boost her confidence ahead of Friday’s race, even though she could only manage a winning time of 52.11s. Compatriot Gloria Asumnu also featured in the women’s 100m where she returned a time of 11.58 in fifth place, just after former world champion, Carmelita Jeter who was fourth with an SB of 11.56s.

George comes into the two-day competition with an SB of 51.30s and will face the herculean task of trying to upstage some of the big names in the women’s 400m including Olympic champion, Sanya Richards-Ross who won the event in Paris last week. Former world champion, Amantle Montsho who is the Commonwealth Games defending champion and USA Champion Francena McCorory will also be on ground to spice up the race, alongside the Jamaican duo of Ann Stephanie Ann McPherson and Novlene Williams-Mills. Reigning world champion, Christine Ohuruogu of Great Britain is not expected to pose a challenge as she comes to the competition with the slowest SB among the pack (53.14s).

Another Nigerian interest, in the men’s triple jump, is Tosin Oke, who currently doubles as the African and Commonwealth Games champion. The Nigerian champion no doubt wants to test the waters ahead of the Commonwealth Games, and is in form to do so, going by his jump of 17.21m at the national trials in Calabar, which equalled the third best jump of his career. He goes against a star studded field which includes two London 2012 Olympic medallists, Christian Taylor and Will Claye and Cuba’s Ernesto Reve who has an SB of 17.58m. This event comes up on Saturday (July 12) at 3.50pm at Hampden Park.

Last but by no means the least, Nigeria’s sprint queen Blessing Okagbare will once again race in the 200m on Saturday at 4.07pm. The Sainsbury Grand Prix surely holds a special place in the sprinter’s heart, going by her exploits during last year’s edition of the event, which was held in London to commemorate the Olympic Games. The Delta State athlete set a new African record of 10.86s in the heats, which eclipsed Glory Alozie’s existing record of 10.90s, and further lowered her time to win the final an hour later in 10.79s.

Okagbare has been concentrating on the 200m this season and will be looking forward to setting a record over the event soon. She currently tops the Diamond League rankings with 10 points, having won the 200m in Shanghai and Paris, and placed second in Eugene with a Personal Best of 22.23s, making her the third fastest Nigerian of all time, after Mary Onyali (22.07s) and Falilat Ogunkoya (22.22s).  Will the Sainsbury Grand Prix be the place where she sets another African record? World leader, Tori Bowie (22.18s), three-time world champion Allyson Felix and Jamaica’s double world champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce will be forces to contend with come Saturday.

The women’s 100m race comes up on Saturday and Cote d’Ivoire’s Murielle Ahouré will run in the 100m alongside world leader this season, Trinidad & Tobago’s Michelle Lee-Ahye (10.85s), Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and USA’s Carmelita Jeter, who is still struggling to hit top form this season. Jeter, the second fastest woman ever and former world champion comes to the meeting with an unimpressive SB of 11.56s.

Also watch out for Botswana’s Isaac Makwala who recently emerged as Africa’s fastest man in the 400m. The sprinter erased Gary Kikaya’s eight-year record of 44.10s with a new time of 44.01s at the Resisprint International meeting in the Switzerland, and then returned a time of 19.96s in the 200m to set another national record just ninety minutes later!

Jamaican star, Yohan Blake is the big name in the men’s 100m which takes place on Friday. He will go against Great Britain’s James Dasaolu, USA’s Michael Rodgers and Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago amongst others.

 

Follow the Glasgow Diamond League LIVE on Supersport, Friday 7-9pm SS6A (DSTV 206), AND Saturday 3-5pm SS2A (DSTV 202)

 

 

Okagbare sets the pace in Paris with 200m victory!

6 Jul

Nigeria’s queen of the track Blessing Okagbare bounced back to winning ways during Saturday’s IAAF Diamond League Meeting at the Stade de France in Paris, where she returned a time of 22.32s to secure a win in the women’s 200m. This feat counts as her third victory in her 2014 Diamond League campaign and ninth overall in her career.

This victory will have re-confirmed Blessing’s position as a favourite for Commonwealth GOLD medals in the sprints later this month. In the 100 metres only two days ago in Lausanne, Okagbare did not finish the race after she stumbled out of the blocks, but she quickly shook off that disappointment and took the day in a keenly contested 200m race, which had the likes of Olympic champion, USA’s Allyson Felix and World Champion over 100m and 200m, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica in tow. 

Okagbare, no doubt aided by her longer strides, held her form well in the final 80m to edge out the stadium record holder Felix, who had taken the lead just around the curve. Felix, a three-time world champion, finished with a Season’s Best (SB) of 22.34s, just 0.02s off Blessing’s winning time.  Anthonique Strachan of the Bahamas was third in 22.54s, while Fraser-Pryce, who is still battling with her fitness levels, finished a disappointing fifth in 22.63s. 

Okagbare’s exploits have earned her the top spot in the 200m ranking with 10 Diamond Race points in her kitty. She won the event at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix in May with a Meeting Record (MR) of 22.36, and the long jump as well (with another MR of 6.86m). She also finished second in the 200 (behind sprinting revelation, Tori Bowie of the US) at the subsequent Diamond League meeting in Oregon with a Personal Best (PB) of 22.23s. Barring an upturn in Fraser-Pryce’s form this season, Okagbare is looking like the favourite to win the 200m GOLD at the Commonwealth Games!

In other events, the men’s 100m turned out to be a dramatic one following the disqualification of Jamaica’s Nickel Ashmeade, who spent several minutes on the track protesting his false start before eventually being ushered away.  USA’s Michael Rodgers eventually won the race in 10 seconds flat, while Trinidad and Tobago’s Richard Thompson and 38 year-old Kim Collins of St Kitts & Nevis placed second and third in 10.08 and 10.10 (SB) respectively. Great Britain’s Chijindu Ujah, who was  competing in the Diamond League for the first time ever, placed sixth with 10.20s, while former European champion Christophe Lemaitre, despite massive home support, was unable to give his fans much to cheer, as he was the last athlete to cross the finish line –  he did however post an SB of 10.28s.

French fans however did have a hat-trick of wins to be excited about –  Renaud Lavillenie’s domination in the men’s Pole Vault with 5.70m,  Eloyse Lesueur, who upstaged USA’s Triple World Champion Brittney Reese in the Long Jump, with a PB of 6.92m, and  Benjamin Compaore, who emerged the surprise winner of the Men’s Triple Jump in 17.12m, just 1cm ahead of Olympic champion, USA’s Christian Taylor! 

Reigning 400m Olympic champion, Sanya Richards-Ross crossed the line in 50.10s to secure her first Diamond League win this season, a huge improvement from her first race of the season in Eugene, where she placed a distant sixth with a time of 51.29s. African and Commonwealth Champion Amantle Montsho could only salvage a fourth place finish (50.70s) in what was her fourth Diamond League outing in 2014, after Shanghai, Eugene and Oslo. 

With the Commonwealth Games just around the corner, Montsho will have her work cut out to stave off competition from Stephanie Ann McPherson and Novlene Williams-Mills to retain her 400m title – the Jamaican duo finished ahead of her in Paris in second and third, with times of 50.40s and 50.68s respectively!

The next leg of the IAAF Diamond League is slated to hold between July 11 and 12 in Glasgow, venue of the Commonwealth Games later this month!

 

2014 Diamond League Calendar

Doha, QAT – 9 May

Shanghai, CHN – 18 May

Eugene, USA – 31 May

Rome, ITA – 5 Jun

Oslo, NOR – 11 Jun

New York, USA – 14 Jun

Lausanne, SUI – 3 Jul

Paris, FRA – 5 Jul

Glasgow, GBR – 11-12 Jul

Monaco, MON – 18 Jul

Stockholm, SWE – 21 Aug

Birmingham, GBR – 24 Aug

Zurich, SUI – 28 Aug

Brussels, BEL – 5 Sep

 

 

Athlete Interview: ALEX AL-AMEEN – 2nd place in 110m Hurdles at Nigerian Trials, formerly of Team GB!!!

4 Jul

25 year-old Alex Al-Ameen speaks exclusively to MAKING OF CHAMPIONS after finishing 2nd in the 110 metre hurdles (in 13.75s) at the 2014 Nigerian Trials

Congratulations for your 2nd place in the 110 hurdles at the Nigerian Trials. How do you feel about your race?

It was an okay race – I didn’t get out as well as I did yesterday (in the semis), but I had to go to the passport office this morning. They made me wait there for an hour, and then when I got here, the race was delayed by half an hour, so considering the conditions, I reckon that I ran an okay race

I can detect a bit of a British accent in your voice? How long have you been competing for Nigeria?

Yes, I am from London. This is my first time competing at the Nigerian Championships. My dad is Nigerian, and my mum is English, and I just recently got my (Nigerian) passport, so I am able to compete for Nigeria this year at the Commonwealth Games and African Champs. 

So how long have you been an athlete?

I’ve been doing it since I was 14. I went to the World Junior Championships for Great Britain and made the semi-finals, and I have been doing it ever since. This year, I’ve started taking it seriously with my coach, and ever since then I have been running PBs – I can’t complain

How old are you now?

I just turned 25.

So what made you decide to switch from representing Team GB to representing Nigeria?

Well, to be honest, I didn’t get picked by England for the Commonwealth Games, I was No. 4 for Great Britain. I knew that if I came to Nigeria I might have the opportunity to compete at the highest level, because I know that I can perform at the highest level. That’s how I came to my decision

So your 2nd place here means you have qualified for the Commonwealth Games for Team Nigeria, so congratulations. 

Thank you.

How do you feel about going up against the other countries, particularly the England team which you didn’t get into? What are your hopes for the Commonwealth Games?

Well, to be honest, my aspirations are to make the final, and I believe that I can mix it with the best of them. I just got my visa on Monday and booked my flight and come straight here, so my preparation hasn’t been that good for these championships, but I know that I am getting better with every race. Yesterday I ran 13.56s, my second fastest time, so I am getting better with every race. 

Ok, well congratulations again and see you at the Commonwealth Games!

Thank you.

Alex Al-Ameen, recently switched allegiances from Team GB, and placed second in the 110m Hurdles at the 2014 Nigerian Trials (his father is Nigerian)

Alex Al-Ameen, recently switched allegiances from Team GB, and placed second in the 110m Hurdles at the 2014 Nigerian Trials (his father is Nigerian)

* A week after the Nigerian Trials, Al-Ameen also competed at the British Athletics Championships (last weekend) in the 110m Hurdles, finishing 3rd in 13.64s. At this stage it is unclear whether this means he is still in contention for a place on Team England for the Commonwealth Games, after having already been named in Team Nigeria for the Commonwealth Games.

One former Nigerian Athlete who has made his feelings about the recruitment of US and UK athletes to Team Nigeria is Double Olympic Medallist Enefiok Udo-Obong, who did not mince words earlier this week on his blog where he expressed his strong feelings about Al-Ameen’s candidacy to represent Nigeria!

Athlete Interview: MARK JELKS – Nigeria’s 100m Champion, formerly of Team USA!!!

30 Jun

30 year-old Mark Jelks, Nigeria’s latest fastest man, talks to the Nigerian press immediately after his win in the 100 metres, in a time of 10.23 seconds (-2.3 m/s wind) at the Nigerian Trials at the UJ Esuene Stadium in Calabar on June 20th, 2014…

How do you feel after winning your first Nigerian 100 metre Title?

I’m tired, hungry, sleepy…did I mention hungry? Men, it is breath-taking to be here. Seriously, I’m in awe right now. Words can’t accurately express what I feel right now. 

Right, we know that you didn’t just think that you were going to waltz in here and win this. Was there anything special you had to do to win here today?

You know, I just had to keep faith in what my training has been, and I knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy win. These guys are hungry to win out here on the track, so I just kept faith in what my coach and I had been working on.

So next stop for you is the Commonwealth Games

Yes, yes! I am ready, I am excited.

We are experiencing a time in Nigerian Athletics where our men are not doing very well. Last year at the World Championships our men could not progress beyond the heats. Now looking forward to the Commonwealth Games you are the Nigerian Champion, you’re the new kid on the block, you’ve beaten former Champions Ogho-Oghene Egwero and Obinna Metu to win the title. Are we going to see you perform better with regards to your time?

I am here to win medals. I am here to represent to the best of my abilities. I will go past rounds, I will make the finals, and I will get medals.

Mark, can you tell us what made you decide to switch allegiance from Team USA to represent Nigeria? 

The opportunity to represent a great country. Seriously, there are more opportunities here to flourish, to be great and to have the opportunity to get to the bigger stage. So that was the deciding factor for me

So what was the process of switching like? Do you have any parents, grandparents or someone in your ancestry who is from Nigeria? How does it work? 

Yeah, my ‘Papa’! I call him Papa, he’s my grand-dad. My uncle still stays here, so I decided to explore that side of my family.

And for Nigerian fans, can you tell us where your Papa is from?

Warri South.

What was your preparation like ahead of winning the Nigerian 100m title here?

The preparation is gruelling, it hurts. That is why I respect all those guys in the final, because they hurt just as much as I hurt. Every day they go out and do the same types of things that I am doing, to make the final, to represent, to get on the team, so it’s humbling and at the same time, exciting.

Mark 'Amuju' Jelks, 2014 Nigerian 100m Champion, recently switched allegiances from Team USA

Mark ‘Amuju’ Jelks, 2014 Nigerian 100m Champion, recently switched allegiances from Team USA

 

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