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Seye Ogunlewe, Alaba, other athletes ‘give up’ on U.S. tour

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(L to R): Nigeria’s Blessing OKAGBARE, UK’s Dina ASHER-SMITH and Switzerland’s Ajla DEL PONTE compete in the 100m women final of the Diamond League track and field meeting in Gateshead on May 23, 2021. (Photo by Andy Buchanan / Diamond League AG)

Team Nigeria to compete in Texas today
• Okagbare finishes fifth at Diamond League

Some Nigerian athletes, including top sprinter, Seye Ogunlewe, and the revelation at Edo 2020 National Sports Festival, Akintola Alaba, may have given up on the plan to join Team Nigeria’s tour of the U.S. ahead of the Tokyo Olympics following their failure to secure a visa to America.

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Team Nigeria, which has been on a tour of the United States for three weeks, will participate in another event in Texas today, with the athletes expected to compete with other nations for Tokyo Olympics relay qualification tickets.

Since Nigeria missed participation at the World Athletics Relays in Poland some weeks ago due to some issues, the athletes have taken part in two events held in Texas.

Apart from the third event today in Texas, Team Nigeria was originally scheduled to participate in another Relay on May 29 in Florida, but the organisers have moved the event to June.

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Some of the athletes, who spoke with The Guardian from their hotel in Abuja yesterday, lamented the long wait to join their counterparts in Texas.

“It is unfortunate we might not be able to join our colleagues in the U.S. for the tour,” one of the athletes told The Guardian on phone. “They keep telling us that the visa will come, but as it is now, the possibility of travelling to the U.S. is no longer realistic. After the event in Texas tomorrow (today), and the one in Florida now moved to June 6, our colleagues are expected to return home. Some of us actually needed this U.S. tour to enable us to meet with some top American athletes ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. I am not blaming anybody for this.”

The President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Olamide George, who led Team Nigeria to the U.S. tour, sounded optimistic last week when he told The Guardian that the athletes in Abuja would join them this week.

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Meanwhile, one of Nigeria’s medal hopefuls at the Tokyo Olympics, Blessing Okagbare, finished fifth in the 100m (11.57seconds) at the 2021 Diamond League in Gateshead, England on Sunday.

Briton, Dina Asher-Smith won the race in 11.35 seconds ahead of American sensation, Sha’Carri Richardson (11.44), while Cote d’Ivoire’s Marie-Josee Ta Lou finished third in 11.48 seconds.

World champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce finished fourth in 11.51 seconds.

Okagbare and other competitors ran into a strong 3.1 m/s headwind at the event.

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