Okagbare, Oduduru’s absence won’t stop us, team Delta boasts
• Uniben Students ‘Forced’ Out Of Hostels
Despite the absence of some key foreign-based athletes, including U.S.-based sprinters, Blessing Okagbare, Divine Oduduru, Raymond Ekevwo and Favour Ofili, Team Delta says it has a strong squad capable of retaining the title at the ongoing 20th National Sports Festival in Benin City.
Team Delta, who won the festival at Bauchi 2000, Abuja 2004, Gateway 2006, Kada 2009, Eko 2012 and Abuja 2018, yesterday stormed the Edo State capital with a large contingent of 1,214 sportsmen, made up of 814 athletes/coaches with 400 accompanying officials.
An official of Team Delta told The Guardian that the state will not be able to enjoy the services of top athletes like Okagbare, Oduduru and Ekevwo, who were originally picked for the festival before it was postponed severally.
“It is unfortunate we will lose close to 16 gold medals because we won’t be able to parade our top athletes in Edo,” the official said. “The flight tickets issued to them to represent Team Delta at the festival in March 2020 have expired after one year. In our original plan, Okagbare was listed for 100m, 4x100m, Mixed 4x100m and 4x400m events. Oduduru was for 100 and 200m, while Favour Ofili, who is also based in the U.S, was our medal hopeful in the 200m, 400m, 4x100m and 4x400m. We have also lost Raymond Ekevwo (gold medallist at 2019 African Games in Morocco), who was our medal prospect in the male 100m event. We won’t have triple jumper, Grace Anigbata, as well as Chidi Okezie for the 400m and 4x400m relay. We have lost our top women hurdler, Tobi Amusan to Ogun State. Maybe, the only foreign-based athlete who will be available to us is women long jumper, Ese Brume. The absence of these top stars will surely affect our team, but I am hopeful Team Delta should be able to live up to the challenges,” the official said pleading anonymity.
Delta State’s former Sports Commissioner, Chief Solomon Ogba, however believes Team Delta will defend its festival title even without Okagbare, Oduduru and other U.S.-based athletes.
“Okagbare was on ground in February before the festival was postponed again. We will defend our title in Edo,” Ogba, who led Delta to win the festival titles on three occasions, Bauchi 2000, Abuja 2004 and Gateway 2006, stated.
In another development, students at the Ugbowo campus of the University of Benin were allegedly ‘forced’ to vacate their hostels yesterday without any notice to accommodate athletes for the sports festival. No official of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) was willing to speak on the issue yesterday.
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