U.S.-based athletes arrive for Commonwealth Games trials
• Porbeni explains why Nigeria finished third in Mauritius
About ten U.S.-based Nigerian athletes have arrived for the national trials to select stars for the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Oregon, U.S., and the Commonwealth Games holding in Birmingham, England.
The national trials will run from June 21 to June 23 at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City.
Nigeria’s fastest man at the moment, Favour Oghenetejiri Ashe, was the first to arrive in Lagos on Monday from his base in the United States.
Last month, Ashe ran an astonishing 9.79 seconds, which is the fastest time in history by any Nigerian athlete, to win his 100m heat at the LSU invitational meet in Baton Rouge.
After missing the Mauritius 2022 African Athletics Championship, Ashe is in Nigeria to battle for his ticket to Oregon 2022 World Championship as well as the Commonwealth Games.
And yesterday afternoon, more U.S.-based athletes arrived in Lagos. They include Rosemary Chukwuma, who is one of the key athletes Nigeria is banking on for medals in Eugene, Oregon and Birmingham, England.
Chukwuma gained her first international experience at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, where she led the Nigerian 4x100m relay team to grab a bronze medal behind the teams from England and Jamaica in 42.75 seconds.
At Asaba 2018 African Athletics Championship, Chukwuma won gold in the 4×100 metres relay. Earlier, she won double gold at the 2018 African Youth Games in Algiers in 100 metres and 200 metres.
Another U.S.-based star, Patience Knowledge Omovoh, has also arrived. With a Personal Best of 53.83 seconds in 400 metres and 24.01 seconds in 200 metres, Omovoh, a student of Grand Cayon University, has proven to be one of the nation’s athletes to watch out for at the Commonwealth Games.
Alaba Olukunle Akintola is also in town. Before he travelled to the U.S., Akintola earned his first-ever major senior title at the 20th National Sports Festival held in Benin City, where he won the 200 metres title in a time of 20.51seconds.
The Edo State-born athlete defeated the likes of Jerry Jakpa and Chidi Okezie to set a new Personal Best in that race.
He is back at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium to battle for a ticket to the World Championships and Commonwealth Games.
Other ‘big athletes,’ including Ese Brume and Tobi Amusan, are expected to jet in soon.
Former AFN President and chairman of the National Trials committee, Chief Solomon Ogba, has called on athletics-loving Nigerians to be at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium to cheer the athletes.
“I want people to come and see things for themselves. Last year, our athletes broke four national records in the sprint and jumps. Ofili (22.75) broke Regina George’s eight-year old 200meters indoor record (23.00seconds), Tobi Amusan ran 12.44 seconds to break an African record, which Glory Alozie set in 1998. Ese Brume also broke Chioma Ajunwa’s 7.12 metres 25-year old African record, while Ruth Usoro also jumped 14.50 metres in the U.S. to break Chinonye Ohadugba’s 14.21 metres national record set in 2007. This year, Ezekiel Nathaniel (48.42) broke Henry Amike’s 35-year old 400m hurdles record (48.50), while Prosper Nnamdi’s 81.08 metres was one centimetre better than the 81.07 metres national record set by Pius Bazighe in 1999. Ofili also improved her 200m indoor to 22.46 and added the outdoor version. She ran 21.96 seconds to become the first Nigerian woman to go under 22 seconds,” Ogba stated.
MEANWHILE, AFN’s Head Coach, Seigha Porbeni, has explained that the absence of key athletes robbed Team Nigeria the chance of topping the medals table in Mauritius.
Speaking with The Guardian on arrival from Mauritius, yesterday, Porbeni said: “We didn’t do well in the 400m hurdles (male and female), long jump (women), javelin (men) and 200m (male and female). But we did very well in 100m hurdle (women), 4x100m relay (women), discuss (women), hammer (women) and shot put (men). Overall, I commend our athletes for the third position finishing. We presented 39 athletes as against 59 by some top athletics countries that could not win a single medal. We will use this national trial in Benin City to correct the mistakes we noticed in Mauritius.”