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Team Nigeria laments Oduduru, Ekevwo’s absence at invitational relays

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• I see great hope at Tokyo Olympics, says Okowa
Top officials of Team Nigeria lamented the absence of two U.S.-based sprinters, Divine Oduduru and Raymond Ekevwo, from the country’s 4x100m relay team that featured at the just concluded Athletics Federation of Nigeria’s (AFN) Invitational Relays. The AFN Relays were held at the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos at the weekend.

While Nigeria’s women 4x100m team was able to consolidate on their ratings among the top 16 nations for the Tokyo Olympics by running 42.97sec on Sunday, the men failed abysmally. The quartet of Enoch Adegoke, Jerry Jakpa, Itsekiri Itseoritshe and Godson Brume managed to run 39.40 seconds in the men’s 4x100m to remain rooted on 18th spot of the qualifying list.

The poor show by the male team is now the talking point among top officials of Team Nigeria as they look forward to the Lagos Invitational Relays scheduled for the Teslim Balogun Stadium on Thursday. The relay teams must pick their tickets before June 29 or forget the Tokyo Olympics.

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Some AFN officials who spoke with The Guardian lamented that the men’s 4x100m relay team was weakened by the absence of Oduduru and Ekevwo.

“When you look at the women’s 4x100m relay squad, all their top sprinters are on ground,” the official said. From Blessing Okagbare to Grace Nwokocha, Favour Ofili, Blessing Ogundiran, Rosemary Chukwuma and Joy Udo-Gabriel, we have a pool of stars to pick for the relay.

But that was not the case with the male team. We need the duo of Oduduru and Ekevwo to strengthen the squad. I am not trying to write off Enoch Adegoke, Jerry Jakpa, Itsekiri Itseoritshe and Godson Brume, but we need Oduduru and Ekevwo.”

The duo (Oduduru and Ekevwo) could not make the trip to Lagos for the Olympics Trials organized by the AFN due to what an official described as unforeseen circumstances.

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Oduduru holds personal bests of 9.86 seconds for the 100m and 19.73 seconds in the 200m, while Raymond Ekevwo, who is the 2019 African Games champion in the 100m, was also a member of Team Nigeria’s 4x100m relay team that grabbed a silver medal at the Games.

Apart from the men still battling for a ticket in the 4x100m ticket, Team Nigeria has to get it right in Thursday’s Invitational in Lagos in both the male and female 4x400m relays.

The women’s 4x400m quartet of Patience Okon-George, Glory Patrick, Favour Ofili and Knowledge Omovo could only run 3: 45.33 seconds, while their male counterparts ran 3: 05.56 seconds at the National Trials on Sunday. There is plenty of work for Team Nigeria in the mixed relay, after the women’s team finished third behind visiting Senegal and Zambia on Sunday. Cote d’Ivoire is the third African country on ground for Thursday’s Lagos Invitational slated for Teslim Balogun Stadium.

MEANWHILE, AFN president Tonobok Okowa says the country’s athletes have shown signs that Team Nigeria could harvest some medals at the Tokyo Olympics. “I have great expectation that we will win some medals at the Tokyo Olympics. The athletes have demonstrated that they are capable, and we will continue to pray for them and give the support they need to succeed.”

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