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AFN, athletes, lament as Team Nigeria fails to get visa to World Relays

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The hope of Nigerian athletes participating at the World Athletics Relays in Poland may have been dashed, following their inability to secure visa from the Polish embassy yesterday.

The World Athletics Relays will begin on May 1 and end the following day at the Silesian Stadium in Chorzow, Poland. Team Nigeria had lined up 24 athletes (12 males and 12 females) for the event in Poland with the hope of picking qualification tickets for the Tokyo Olympics. The country entered five relay teams: 4x100m (men and women), 4x400m (men and women) and the Mixed 4 x400m in Poland.

Nigeria’s participation at the World Relays in Poland was revived last week after an initial doubt owing to the ongoing leadership crisis in the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN).

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An official of the AFN told The Guardian yesterday that the Polish embassy in Abuja insisted on operating within its country’s rules and regulations as far as insurance of visa is concerned.

“They told us that Poland has its rules and regulation and that visa can only be issued to those who meet the deadline of two weeks. And as it stands, Team Nigeria is out of the World Relays in Poland. It is so sad because we wanted to use the event to qualify our athletes for Tokyo Olympics relay events. But we still have one more chance of qualifying our relay team for the Olympics, if we are able to attend the event we have entered in the United States of America. It will hold on May 9,” the official said.

Some of the athletes who spoke with The Guardian yesterday lamented the inability to attend the Poland meet. They blamed the setback on the leadership crisis in AFN.

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Among the athletes listed for the World Relays in Poland include Blessing Okagbare, who was part of Nigeria’s women’s 4x200m team that won gold in 2015, Tobi Amusan, Joy Udo-Gabriel, Grace Nwokocha and Tima Godbless. They were listed for the women’s 4x100m.

Listed in the 4x400m were the recently crowned women’s 400m Champion at Edo 2020 National Sports Festival in Benin City, Imaobong Nse Uko (youngest athlete in the relays team), veteran Patience Okon-George, Glory Patrick, Abasiono Akpan, Opeyemi Oke and Osaretin Usembo.

All the top four finishers in the men’s 100m at Edo 2020 Sports Festival, Enoch Adegoke, Alaba Akintola, Jerry Jakpa and Usheoritse Itsekiri, were listed in the men’s 4x100m team while Divine Oduduru, with a Personal Best (PB) of 9.86s and Seye Ogunlewe, with a PB of 10.12s, were also listed for Team’s Nigeria’s men’s 4x100m event.

The top four athletes in the men’s 400m at the NSF, Chidi Okezie, Emmanuel Ojeli, Sikiru Adeyemi, Samson Nathaniel and Rilwan Alowonle were listed for the men’s 4x400m team. There is Timothy Emeoghene in the 4x400m team.

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