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Athletes grumble as AFN drops coach Esabunor, Obiano from Team Nigeria’s U.S. relays

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The decision by the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) to drop the duo of coach Mavuah Esabunor and George Obiano from Team Nigeria’s contingent to the United States of America for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Relays qualifying events is said to be causing ripples among the athletes.

Team Nigeria is participating in the U.S. Relays after missing the World Athletics Relays qualifiers in Poland last weekend due to visa issues.

The Guardian learnt yesterday that the duo of Mavuah Esabunor and George Obaino, who had more athletes in the team to the U.S. Relays, were dropped for some other coaches. The action is said to be unsettling some of the athletes.

“It is unfair for the AFN to drop coach Esabunor and Obaino, who have worked so hard to qualify most of the athletes for the Tokyo Olympic Games from this trip to U.S.,” one of the athletes told The Guardian yesterday. “As we speak, their athletes are very unhappy with the situation and it might affect their performance at the U.S. Relays event. Coach Mavuah Esabunor already has a U.S. visa, but he was dropped for a coach, who has just two athletes in the team.

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How the AFN arrived at that decision still baffles us.”

The Guardian learnt that the two coaches, who work at the AAF/CAA High Performance Centre at the University of Port Harcourt, have about six athletes in the team to the U.S. Relays, including Grace Nwokocha, who is one of the finest sprinters in the country at the moment.

Apart from winning the 200m gold at Edo 2020 National Sports Festival with a new lifetime best of 22.79s, Nwokocha also qualified for the Tokyo Olympics under the tutelage of coach Mavuah Esabunor. Other athletes produced by the two coaches, who made the trip to the U.S. Relays, include Godson Brume, Timothy Omoghene, Praise Idamadudu and Favour Odili.

No official of the AFN was ready to comment on the issue yesterday.

Contacted by The Guardian yesterday, the Director of the AAF/CAA High Performance Centre in Port Harcourt, Prof Ken Anugweje also declined to speak on it.

Meanwhile, the last batch of Team Nigeria’s contingent for the U.S. Relays could not travel yesterday as expected due to their inability to secure visas. These include sprinter Seye Ogunlewe and Alaba Akintola, as well as coach Deji Aliu.

Some staff of the sports ministry were said to have made Team Nigeria’s advanced party to the U.S. about four days ago leaving the athletes behind.

Team Nigeria is expected to compete in some Relay events in cities like Florida and Texas in its bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics Games. One of the Relays will hold tomorrow, May 9.

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