6th July, 2012
Arguably, the track and field athletes who will represent Team Nigeria at the London 2012 Olympics Games had good preparations for the Games, which begin on 27 July.
With the preparations afforded the team by the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, AFN, it is expected that the athletes should be in top form going to London with the aim of surpassing Nigeria’s achievement in previous editions of the Olympics.
Apart from their preparation, the AFN in its bid to give the athletes all they need to succeed, went ahead to appoint a former athlete, Innocent Egbunike, who had an Olympic experience to train them.
Going into the Olympics, Nigerians in their usual manner will be expecting new much from the athletes.
P.M.Sports was at the 66th edition of the All Nigeria Athletics Championship, held recently in Calabar, Cross River State, and our man, chronicles the chances of some key Nigerian athletes who are likely to perform in London:
Nigeria’s brightest medal hopeful is Blessing Okagbare, who would be competing in two Women events; 100m and the Long jump. But she still has some athletes to contend with if she must win a medal for Nigeria.
Two-time Olympic runner-up Allyson Felix, who has a personal best of 10.92, Carmelita Jeter 10.90. both of the United States of America, USA among others may stand on Okagbare’s way, 11:12secs.
Other Nigerian female athletes who were registered for the 100m are Gloria Asumnu and Lawretta Ozoh.
Interestingly Okagbare would have had the opportunity to contest with Felix in the 200m but the AFN did not include her name in the event.
Noteworthy is the fact that Felix is the only woman in the 200m ever to be a three-time Athletics World Championship gold medalist, hence she would be going into the 100m with aim of clinching both.
Veteran Olympic coach, Tobias Igwe described the exclusion of Okagbare in the 200m as a blessing in disguise, stating that it would give her the opportunity to concentrate more in the Long jump event.
Igwe, who discovered a number of stars who went on to win medals for Nigeria in international sports scene opined that if the Beijing 2008 bronze medalist can have a leap of 6.97m and train harder, she can claim a gold medal in the 100m.
In the 200m Women event, the trio Asumu 22.89, Ozoh 22.73 and Christy Udoh 22.91 will again go head-to-head with the same Felix 21.69 and Jeter 22.11.
The difference in timing between the two Nigerians and Americans speak volume as to the level of training that the two Nigerians must put in if they want to beat the Americans and other athletes in the 200m event.
In the Men’s 100m event, Team Nigeria will have to resort to prayers if they must compete with top athletes such as Jamaica’s Usain Bolt and Johan Blake, America’s Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin.
There are fears in the track and field event for the Men in the 100m, because while the Bolt, Blake, Gay and Gatlin are already doing under 10secs Nigerians are still way behind.
At the last athletics meet in Calabar, Cross River State, the three men who are expected to do Nigeria proud all ran above 10secs.
Nigeria’s fastest man, Obinna Metu of the Nigerian Prison ran 10:11secs; Ogho Oghene Egwero did 10:19, while Peter Emelieze did 10:32.
The foregoing are signs that the three athletes may not even go past the heat stage before they are eliminated.
Aside from Okagbare, Nigeria’s lone representative in the Men’s 400m Hurdles event Amechi Morton has said that racing at the London 2012 Olympic Games is a big thing he is looking forward to.
Morton, who won an NCAA title for Stanford as a senior this spring, will compete in the 400m intermediate hurdles for Nigeria at the London Olympics.
Morton, already had the Olympic “A” qualifying standard, as he finished in 49:32secs. With the time he returned, it seems his chances of picking a medal is very bright if the time returned by world 400m hurdles champion, Dai Greene to book his place at London 2012 is anything to go by.
Greene triumphed in a modest time of 49:47, which means if things work out well for Morton, he may return with even the gold medal.
The Women’s 4x100m on a good day can win a medal for the country, but it all depends on their technical ability when the chips are down. Little or nothing can be said of their would-be opponents.
Muizat Ajoke Odumosu will also be another lone ranger when she steps to the tracks in the Women’s 400m hurdles event. She represented Nigeria at the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics and competed at the World Championships in Athletics in 2007 and 2009.
She did a 55:08secs at the athletics meet in Calabar and Egbunike believes she has what it takes to pick a medal for Nigeria. “Ajoke can hold her own anyday, she is not a noise maker and takes her training seriously, she is always ready to learn.”
Will the athletes that will be on parade for Nigeria make an impact, only time will tell?