Tag Archives: Mark Jelks

Team Nigeria to spearhead Africa’s 4x100m medal hopes @ Continental Cup

12 Sep

Nigeria’s GOLD winning team in the men’s 4x100m relay at the 2014 African Senior Championships in Marrakech are the sole bearers of Team Africa’s hopes in the event at the IAAF Continental Cup holding in Morocco this weekend.

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This season has been a long one for the team which participated first at the IAAF World Relays in May without a medal, and then the Commonwealth Games where they ran alongside world leaders, Jamaica in the heats and final. National 100m champion, Mark Jelks anchored the team to second position in the heats, just behind Jamaica which had the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt in action. They eventually finished a sixth in a final which was won by the Jamaicans in a scorching 37.58s.

It was an entirely different story at the African Championships as the Nigerian quartet comprising of Ogho-Oghene Egwero (No. 90 in the world this season with 10.18s), Monzavous Edwards (No. 78), Obinna Metu (No. 173 with 10.28s) and Jelks (No. 35) who was the anchor once again, dominated the event by clocking a Season’s Best (SB) of 38.80s ahead of Ghana (39.28s) and the Algerian team which sprinted to a National Record (NR) of 39.89s.

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Jelks and Edwards finished second and third respectively in the men’s 100m with SBs of 10.07s and 10.16s respectively, while the title was won by Cote d’Ivoire’s Hua Wilfried Koffi with an NR and Personal Best (PB) of 10.05s. However the 4x100m team would be without the services of Koffi who will focus on the sprint double at the forthcoming event. The Nigerian team is 34th on the 2014 IAAF 4x100m Relay rankings.

The Americas team comes with an intimidating CV, having the likes of Richard Thompson (No. 2 with 9.82s), Michael Rodgers (No. 4 with 9.91s), Jamaica’s Nesta Carter (No. 8 with 9.96s) and veteran Kim Collins (No. 8 with 9.96s). All four athletes have done a sub-10 this season and are certainly the team to beat – it will be interesting to see how they do with their baton exchanges, given that the quadrennial continental cup is the only major competition that could see these sprinters of different nations competing on the same team!

European champions, Team GB, will represent the continent in Marrakech. They won the continental crown in a very strong 37.93s. It comprises of Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (No. 40 with 10.08s), James Ellington (No. 59 with 12.13s), Richard Kilty (No. 51 with 10.12s) and Danny Talbot (No. 87 in 10.17s) – they will be expected to put up a good fight for the podium as the team ranks second on the 2014 IAAF rankings behind Jamaica.

Asian champions and world No. 10 relay team Japan, with an SB of 38.34s, will be representing Team Asian-Pacific and is made up of Masaharu Mori, Masafumi Naoki, Yu Onabuta, Kazuma Oseto (No. 141 with 10.25s) and Kotaro Taniguchi. Amongst the four teams, it would seem that Team Africa are the underdogs, give them times each team has run this season, so it will be interesting to see if they can cause an upset!

 

The IAAF Continental Cup will be taking place in Marrakech, Morocco THIS WEEKEND (Sept 13th & 14th), and Team Nigeria will be representing Africa in the men’s 4x100m on Saturday Sept 13th at 9.55pm!

Day 1 is LIVE on SuperSport 2 from 6.20-10.10pm. Day 2 is LIVE on SuperSport 6 from 5.20-9.10pm!

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

10 Sep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 1 is LIVE on SuperSport 2 from 6.20-10.10pm. Day 2 is LIVE on SuperSport 6 from 5.20-9.10pm!

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Nigeria’s Americans fail to get 100m, 400m & 110m Hurdles COMMONWEALTH Medals – Why did we recruit them again?

29 Jul

Nigeria’s hopes of securing a Commonwealth medal in the men’s 100m ended last night at Hampden Park in Glasgow, as the country’s sole finalist Mark Jelks finished in fifth place in 10.17s. The title was won by Jamaica’s Kemar Bailey-Cole who stormed to gold in 10.00s flat and was closely followed by England’s Adam Gemili in 10.10s, to the clear delight of himself and the home crowd, while another Jamaican, Nickel Ashmeade got the bronze in 10.12s.

This is Jelk’s first outing for Nigeria, having recently switched allegiance from the US and though the 30-year-old was hoping for a podium finish, his efforts are nonetheless commendable, going by the fact that he was the only African in the final that boasted of three Jamaicans, amongst others. Jelks, who emerged National Champion at the Nigeria’s trials earlier this year was entered to the 100m alongside another newly acquired American athlete, 33-year-old Monzavous Edwards who finished 2nd in the trials, and Ogho-Oghene Egwero, 3rd at the trials. The duo however fell by the wayside, with Egwero finishing 8th in his semi-final with 10.40s while Edwards didn’t fare much better, trailing in 7th in his semi with 10.30s. Jelks had qualified for the final as one of the fastest losers in the semis where he posted a time of 10.13s.

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

In the absence of some of the tournament favourites and leading names such as Trinidad and Tobago’s Richard Thompson, No. 1 in the Commonwealth this year with 9.82s but failed to progress to the final, and Jamaica’s Nesta Carter (SB 9.98s), Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake and the big man himself Usain Bolt, one would have expected the newly converted athletes to have at least made an impact, going by the controversy that has trailed their acquisition of the Nigerian passport and their subsequent selection to Team Nigeria. One of them, Robert Simmons, did not even need to appear at the Nigerian Trials to suit up for his new country yesterday in the 400 metres, thus calling the whole selection process into question. Incidentally, he failed to finish his 400m heat, pulling up half way through due to injury!

Robbert Simmons, formerly of Team USA, now of Team Nigeria!

Robbert Simmons, formerly of Team USA, now of Team Nigeria!

In the 110m Hurdles on Tuesday morning, another American recruit, 28-year-old Tyron Akins, crashed out of the 110m Hurdles after finishing 4th in Heat 2 in a time of 13.75s. Akins won the Nigerian title at the trials in June, and at his best about 6 years ago he was a 13.25s runner. Former Team GB athlete Alex Al-Ameen, who qualifies to for the Green Passport by virtue of his Nigerian father, just scraped through to the final, qualifying as one of the fastest loser’s from Heat 1 in a time of 13.71s. As we predicted yesterday in our analysis, Akins and Al-Ameen were likely competing for one fastest loser spot, and that proved to be the case. Though Al-Ameen’s chances of making an impact in the final are slim to none, the 25-year-old should be encouraged as an athlete who COULD improve for Team Nigeria over the next 5 years!

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All this then begets the question we asked at the start of the week – were any of the recruited Americans really good enough to win Commonwealth GOLD in the first place? And if they are not good enough at THIS LEVEL, what on earth will happen when Team USA is in the mix, and Jamaica’s A-team return for the World Championships and Olympics in the next 2 years? Does Nigeria really need to adopt this strategy of recruiting older American athletes rather than developing our own future stars? Have they really justified their inclusion into the team? Should we not have allowed the likes of 22-year old Seye Ogunlewe, Nigeria’s best young sprint talent, the opportunity to experience individual 100m sprinting at the Commonwealth Games, while grooming him for years to come?

The jury is out on this one, but they have very nearly reached a verdict already, after just THREE days of Athletics action at the Games. The last of Nigeria’s  American recruits is Nichole Denby, who competes in the 100m Hurdles on Thursday. Can she fare any better? We won’t have long to wait to find out.

 

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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