Athletics: Okagbare tops list of 12 Nigerians cleared to compete in Tokyo Olympics
…As Athletics Integrity Unit bars 10 Nigerian athletes from competing
Reigning Nigeria sprint queen, Blessing Okagbare, tops the list of 12 athletes the Athletics Integrity Unit has cleared to compete in the athletics event of the ongoing Tokyo Olympics which gets underway on Friday. Okagbare, who is making her fourth appearance at the Olympic Games, and who is Nigeria’s record holder in the 100m and 200m events, will be competing in the women’s 100m heat on Friday.
Also cleared to contest are sprint hurdler Tobiloba ‘Tobi’ Amusan, who is ranked number four in the women’s 100m hurdles; long jumper Ese Brume, who tops the world list in her event coming into the Olympics, and Grace Nwokocha, the Nigerian-based sensation who clocked 11.09 seconds in March at the MOC Grand Prix in Lagos to seal her qualification for the Tokyo Games.
Others are the trio of Divine Oduduru, Enoch Adegoke and Ushoritse Itshekiri who will be competing in the men’s 100m. Oduduru will also race in the 200m, an event he holds the national record of 19.73 seconds; a time he set two years ago in Austin, Texas, in the USA, to win the NCAA gold.
Shot putter Chukwuebuka Enekwechi, who made it to the event’s final at the 2019 World Athletics Championship in Doha, Qatar, is also cleared to compete.
The 4x400m mixed relay quartet of Imaobong Nse Uko, Patience Okon-George, Nathaniel Samson and Ifeanyi Ojeli are also cleared to compete and will be in action on Friday in the first semi-final heat.
However, 10 Nigerian athletes weren’t cleared by the Athletics Integrity Unit.
The athletes are jumper Ruth Usoro, sprinter Favour Ofili, Chioma Onyekwere (discus), Annette Echikunwoke (hammer), Chidi Okezie (4X400m mixed relays), Knowledge Omovoh (4x100m women), Rosemary Chukwuma (100m), Glory Patrick (4X400m mixed relays), Yinka Ajayi (4X400m mixed relays) and Tima Godless (4X100m relays).
They did not test positive for any prohibited substances but were barred from competing in Tokyo because their out-of-competition tests did not comply with the sample collection and analysis standards of the world anti-doping body, WADA.
Prince Adeniyi Adisa Beyioku, Secretary-General of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, nevertheless, says the athletes are in good spirits as they are determined to return Nigeria to the podium for the first time since 2008 when Okagbare and the women’s 4x100m won Nigeria’s last Olympic medals in track and field.
Beyioku is happy the 12 athletes have been cleared to compete and assured that the federation will continue to be the goose that lays Team Nigeria’s golden eggs at the Olympics.
Athletics accounts for 13 of the 25 medals won by the country at the Olympics, including two of the country’s three gold medals.