There is still glamour in African Games, says Ogunkoya
Nigerian ex-Olympian, Falilat Ogunkoya says the thrill and glamour at the African Games are still intact, contrary to the opinion of former Nigerian long jumper, Yusuf Alli.
The 59-year-old Alli, who won a Commonwealth Games title at Auckland ’90, as well as represented Nigeria at eight editions of the African Games as an athlete, team manager and coach, claimed recently that the African Games was ‘no longer glamorous,’ citing especially the 12th edition, which ended last weekend in Rabat, Morocco.
While the competition was taking place in Morocco, Alli had argued back home that many Nigerians had lost interest in the African Games, adding: “In those days [when Alli competed] when you walked around the streets of the country, especially Lagos, you would know Nigeria was taking part in the African Games.
“But this year, honestly people are even asking questions – ‘when is African Games, have they started?’ – when the Games is already ongoing.I think this year, everything is down, perhaps because of the economic downturn across the world, including in Nigeria. For me, the African Games is no longer glamorous as it used to be. Even the athletes, the Games is no longer showbiz, as it used to be.
“In those days, weeks, months before the African Games, athletes already had their wares, your tracksuits and all your kits were ready. But now, I doubt it, I don’t even know the colours they would be wearing.”But Ogunkoya, who was among ex-international athletes sponsored to Morocco by the Sports Ministry, told The Guardian that all ingredients that made past editions of the African Games glamorous were present in Rabat.
“I want to disagree with anybody, who says the African Games has lost its glamour,” Ogunkoya told The Guardian in a telephone chat shortly after the closing ceremony in Rabat last Friday.“Here In Morocco, I witnessed a great event. For instance, some of our athletes were able to break records, which had been untouched for many years,” Ogunkoya stated.
Nigeria’s track and field queen, Oluwatobiloba Amusan emerged as one of the star athletes at Morocco 2019 African Games, as she ran a time of 12.68 seconds in the 100m Hurdles event to break Gloria Alozie’s time of 12.74 seconds, which had been in existence since Jo’burg ‘99 edition of the Games.
Another Nigerian, Raymond Ekevwo, ran a fantastic time of 9.96 seconds to win the 100m race. Apart from being the fastest man at the African Games, the Delta State-born sprinter also made a great mark, as the first Nigerian male sprinter to win gold medal in the 100meters at the African Games in 12 years.
North Cyprus-based long jumper, Ese Brume, leaped 6.69m to claim the gold medal, but narrowly missed the opportunity to equal Janice Josephs’ African Games Record of 6.70m.
In the 200m event for male, Divine Oduduru’s 20.45 seconds on his way to the final was adjoined the fastest in the semifinal of the competition. Nigerian table tennis players also gave a good account of themselves by defeating Egypt to win gold, silver and bronze in the women and men’s doubles events. Veteran Funke Oshonaike and Fatimo Bello recovered from 1-2 down to win the gold.6,500 athletes from 54 countries took part in twenty-six sports at the 12th African Games in Morocco.
For Ogunkoya, the just concluded African Games in Morocco was among the best ever staged in Africa.Ogunkoya, a 400m specialist, won a number of national and international championships, including a bronze medal in the 400m at Atlanta ’96 Olympics, where she ran a personal best and African record of 49.10 seconds, which is currently the 12th fastest of all time. She was a gold medalist at Jo’burg ’99 All African Games in the 400m.
“I am an athletics person, but I took my time to move around the various centres, where competitions were held, and I can say the African Games still remain the same in terms of glamour. Look at the records in the men’s 10,000 metres. The closing ceremony was a delight to watch. Maybe, the organisers need to improve more in certain areas, but I was really satisfied with what I saw in Morocco,” Ogunkoya stated.
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