The 67th CRS/AFN All Nigeria Athletics Championships have come and gone but the memories will surely linger on, writes Babatunde Eludini.
While old guns like Blessing Okagbare, Ajoke Odumosu and Doreen Amata all held their own in their respective events; some new faces like Ugonna Ndu; a fast improving hurdler, Ese Brume in the jumps were on hand to give a glimpse of what the future holds for Nigeria athletics if things are done rightly.
At the Calabar Meet; the climax of Nigeria’s athletics calendar Okagbare opened a new chapter in history as she became the first athlete in modern times to win the 100m Women’s events a record five times consecutively.
The London 2012 Olympics finalist in the same event left no one in doubt she is shoulders above her contemporaries in the manner she won her race and later added the 200m events as well as the Long Jump’s top prize.
Okagbare’s form and the little time still available to perfect strategies ahead of the World Championships in Moscow gives many hope that Nigeria’s medal’s drought at the World Championships which clocks 14 years this term may finally be a thing of the past.
AFN President, Chief Solomon Ogba, is expectedly one of the optimists that believes Team Nigeria will get it right in Moscow this term.
“We are working hard as a Federation and with the right support from the authorities and prayers of Nigerians I know we will win medals in Moscow," Ogba said.
On the same page with Chief Ogba is Athens 2004 bronze medallist, Godday James who has equally stated that the men’s 4x400m relay team can perform wonders at the forthcoming IAAF World Championships if they put their minds to it.
James, who won the 400m at the 2011 edition of the national championships, believes that his colleagues can take a cue from their predecessors’ triumph at the Olympics.
“During the 2004 national trials, I and Bola Lawal ran 45.7 while Enefiok Udo-Obong and Isah Audu ran 46.2. At the Olympics we had a time of 3:00.09 in the semis and still ran the same time in the final. That got us the bronze medal.
“The 4x400m is quite different from the 400m flat but if they compose themselves and put in more effort, they can run lower than 3:00.00. They can improve so I’m looking forward to seeing them achieve great things in Russia," he said.
To some of the youngsters that made headline in Calabar, US based Ugonna Ndu takes front row having emerged a national champion in her maiden appearance at the national trials.
Ndu looks good to step first into the shoes of Seun Adigun the hitherto national champions in the 100m hurdles event and with more hard work that of Gloria Alozie the national record holder in the event .
Calm, cool and taking each race as it comes, Ndu is gearing for the World University Games in Kazan where she is confident of a medal or two before she hopefully takes on the world in Moscow where she hopes to get better experience for the future.
The performances of the athletes in Calabar were not only appreciated with the words of mouth as the sum of eleven million, six hundred and seventy five thousand naira was won by distinguishing athletes competing at this championship. Gold medallist went home with N100,000, silver medallist N75,000 and bronze medallist N50,000.