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Sports ministry, AFN move to stop U.S.-based athletes from ‘burning’ out

By Gowon Akpodonor
06 May 2022   |   3:30 am
To prevent U.S.-based Nigerian athletes from ‘burning’ out before this year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, the Sports Ministry and officials of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) have appointed

Rosemary Chukwuma (left) is one of Nigeria’s medals’ prospects at the forthcoming Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games

To prevent U.S.-based Nigerian athletes from ‘burning’ out before this year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, the Sports Ministry and officials of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) have appointed a ‘middleman’ to interface with the athletes, their coaches and schools.

Nigerian athletes, who are in various schools in the United States, have been the talking point in the last two weeks, scattering world, African, national and NCAA records at various track and field events.

From newsprint sensation, Favour Ofili, to Rosemary Chukwuma and Favour Ashe, athletics lovers are hoping that Team Nigeria will be the one to beat when hostilities for medals begin at the African Senior Athletics Championship in Mauritius, World Athletics Championship in Oregon, U.S. and the Commonwealth Games in England.

To get the best of the athletes, former African queen of the tracks, Mary Onyali, revealed yesterday that the sports ministry and the AFN have ‘blocked’ every loophole.

Onyali, who is the Special Adviser on Sports to Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, told The Guardian that U.S.-based Nigerian former 400m hurdler, Victor Okorie (now AFN Performance Director), has been mandated to interface with the athletes, their coaches and schools with a view to managing their form ahead of the Commonwealth Games and other championships.

Onyali, a five-time Olympian, hinted that Okorie had already commenced his ‘interface’ job with the athletes.

“We don’t want our athletes to burn out before the Commonwealth Games, as we had witnessed in the past. That is why the AFN Performance Director, Victor Okorie, is mandated to liaise with them (athletes), their coaches and schools in the U.S.

“The sports ministry is doing everything possible to ensure Team Nigeria records major achievements at the Commonwealth Games,” Onyali stated.

The Guardian recalls that barely a week after shattering Blessing Okagbare’s 200m record with a new 21.96 seconds, Favour Ofili made African sprint history last weekend by running a 100m lead of 10.93s to become the second African woman after Namibia’s Christine Mboma to race inside 11 seconds in the event.

Another Nigerian sprinter, Rosemary Chukwuma, was also in inspiring form, as she legally dipped inside 23 seconds for the first time in her career to win the 200m race and also set a new Texas Tech University record last weekend.

Chukwuma’s 22.78 second new lifetime best is the 10th-fastest time in the NCAA this season, the fifth-fastest time in the Big 12 this season, the sixth-fastest by an African so far this season and the third by a Nigerian after Ofili (21.96s) and Tobi Amusan (22.66s).