My son never begged to represent Nigeria at Nairobi 2021, says coach Onwuzurike
United States-based athletics coach, Chris Onwuzurike, has described as untrue story making the rounds that his son, Udodi Onwuzurike, begged to represent Nigeria at the recently concluded World Junior Athletics Championships in Nairobi, Kenya.
Udodi Onwuzurike emerged as one of the star athletes at the end of Nairobi 2021, after he sensationally claimed the men’s 200m title at Kasarani Stadium with a new national junior record of 20.21 seconds.
Two Nigerian coaches based in the U.S. (names withheld) are allegedly claiming to have ‘speedily facilitated’ Onwuzurike’s registration for Nairobi 2021 event. The duo were quoted saying in an online publication made available to The Guardian that Udodi Onwuzurike and his father begged and paid their way to Nairobi to represent Nigeria. But coach Chris Onwuzurike says there is no iota of truth in the story. “Last year 2020, upon realising that the United States will not participate in the World Athletics U20 Championships, Udodi and I decided to represent Nigeria and started looking for ways to connect to the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN). We made inquiries through several avenues until my son, Udodi, met Chidi Okezie, an athlete at a meet in the U.S. Chidi eventually directed us to Chief Solomon Ogba (former AFN President).
Coach Onwuzurike, who led his son to win the 200m gold medal in Nairobi, added: “Chief Ogba immediately connected us to AFN President, Tonobok Okowa. I was also introduced to Victor Okorie and Henry Okorie whom I believed facilitated the registration process. I was in constant communication with AFN President, Chief Okowa, while he was in Tokyo, and he expressed a great deal of interest and excitement over Udodi’s decision to run for Nigeria.
“My son and I never begged to represent Nigeria. When it was time for the team to travel, I expressed to Chief Okowa our intention to travel to Nairobi earlier than they had planned for the team to ease up acclimatization for Udodi.”
With that decision, I opted to pay for Udodi’s flight with the understanding that timely refund will be followed. Chief Okowa agreed and in fact refunded us Udodi’s flight money upon our arrival in Nairobi,” he stated.
Coach Onwuzurike said they have no regrets in joining Team Nigeria in Nairobi. “They are a formidable team with so much promise. Indeed, I am truly proud to be a Nigerian and affiliated with the U20 team.
“For the last 10 years, I have been involved in coaching my son, Udodi, along with Coach Deron Early, a teammate of Carl Lewis during their days at University of Houston. Udodi, as the best sprinter (100 and 200) represented the State of Michigan every year at the AAU since he was eight years. Udodi ran for Prime-Time Track Club owned by Deron Early. For the past four years, Prime Time Track Club had produced the best sprinters (Boys and Girls).”
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