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Anxiety in Team Nigeria’s camp as U.S.-based athletes risk missing C’Games

By Gowon Akpodonor
25 July 2022   |   3:24 am
Majority of Nigerian athletes, who participated at the just-concluded Oregon 2022 World Athletics Championships in the United States, may miss the early stage of the Commonwealth Games billed for Birmingham, England, due to failure to secure British visas.

Team Nigeria’s relay team celebrates after qualifying for the final at teh World Athletics Championships, Oregon 2022.

• Only Tobi Amusan has UK visa, says official
• 4x100m women break record, fail medals test

Majority of Nigerian athletes, who participated at the just-concluded Oregon 2022 World Athletics Championships in the United States, may miss the early stage of the Commonwealth Games billed for Birmingham, England, due to failure to secure British visas.

The first batch of Team Nigeria’s athletes to the Commonwealth Games, who left the country on Friday, have already settled down in Birmingham ahead of commencement of the event on July 28.

The Guardian learnt, yesterday, that apart from sprint hurdler, Tobi Amusan, all other athletes based in the United States are yet to get results of their biometric for the UK visa, which they did in various locations across the United States.

An official, who spoke with The Guardian yesterday, hinted that the development is giving the athletes and their coaches sleepless night.

“Some of our athletes are scheduled to depart Eugene, Oregon for Birmingham, venue of the Commonwealth Games tomorrow (today), but as we speak, they have not received the result of their biometrics.

“Only Amusan has seen her own. This may disrupt our plan for the Commonwealth Games,” the official said. The Guardian recalls that a group of Nigerian athletes left through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, while others left through the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja on Friday.

Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, the president of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), Habu Gumel and the Chef de Mission to the Games, Dr. Simon Ebhojiaye, were on hand to see off the team that left through Abuja.

The minister charged the athletes to be focused, disciplined and conscious of the fact that they are carrying the aspirations and hopes of over 200 million Nigerians.

“I want to urge you to be disciplined,” Dare told the athletes, adding, “if you have any complaints, the ministry has outlined how they can be resolved.

“There are just three layers for conflict resolution now and by the time you are getting to that third layer, then you are getting to me.”

The minister also emphasised the zero tolerance policy against doping and the need for the athletes to be clean and fair.

“Only last week, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) commended us for our zero tolerance stance against doping and the seriousness we have attached to our anti doping campaign. Our increased number of testings and drive to do things right are some of the things you should reflect at this Games.

“So, as you leave for the Commonwealth Games, remember to be good ambassadors of our dear country and strive to do us proud,” he added.

Ninety-four athletes and 21 officials will represent Nigeria in nine sports at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s quartet of Joy Udo-Gabriel, Favour Ofili, Rosemary Chukwuma and Grace Nwokocha gallantly finished fourth in the final of the women’s 4x100m relay event at the 2022 World Athletics Championships with a new African record of 42.22 seconds.

The quartet smashed the hitherto African record of 42.39 seconds set by bronze-winning Team Nigeria’s foursome of Mary Onyali, Christy Opara-Thompson, Beatrice Utondu and Faith Idehen at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.

However, the Nigerian team, who ran in lane eight, failed to make the podium for the umpteenth time and settled four another fourth position.

The rampant U.S.’ foursome of Melissa Jefferson, Abby Steiner, Jenna Prandini and Twanisha Terry got the Women’s 4x100m relay gold medal in style with a world-leading 41.14 seconds. Jamaica won the silver in 41.18 seconds, while Germany took home the bronze with 42.03 seconds finish.

Nigeria just missed the bronze medal as Rosemary Chukwuma, who ran the third-leg, made a 50-50 dash with Germany’s Gina Luckenkemper. However, a faulty baton exchange cost the team the medal.

Canada also took advantage of poor baton exchange by the U.S to deny their neighbours a clean sweep of the sprint relay. They also had a world leading time of 37.44 seconds.