There was a time not too long ago when Nigerians were without doubt Africa’s fastest men. In the eighties and nineties especially, Nigerians dominated sprinting on the continent, and at the height of our powers at the Barcelona ’92 Olympics, Nigeria was 2nd only to the mighty USA in the men’s sprints, with TWO men in each of the Olympic sprint finals – Davidson Ezinwa in the 100 metres, Oluyemi Kayode (RIP) in the 200 metres, and Olapade Adeniken in both races! Those three athletes combined with Africa’s first 10-second flat sprinter, Chidi Imoh, to win an incredible Silver medal in the men’s 4x100m at Barcelona ’92 in an African Record, behind USA’s World Record Setting team! 

Indeed, the Top African Sprinters in the 100 metres of all time read like a who’s who of Nigerian sprinting, plus Namibian legend Frankie Fredericks, 3 Ghanaians, 2 Zimbabweans and 1 South African! A whopping NINE of the 16 Africans who have run 10 seconds or less are NIGERIAN (In fact, SEVEN of the Top 9 are Nigerian):

1. Olusoji Fasuba, 9.85s (NGR)

2. Frankie Fredericks, 9.86s (NAM)

3. Ngonidzashe Makusha, 9.89s (ZIM)

4. Seun Ogunkoya, 9.92s (NGR)

5. Davidson Ezinwa, 9.94s (NGR)

6. Olapade Adeniken, 9.95s (NGR)

6. Deji Aliu, 9.95s (NGR)

8. Francis Obikwelu, 9.97s (NGR) – he later ran 9.86s while representing Portugal: the European Record till this day!

8. Uchenna Emedolu, 9.97s (NGR)

10. Daniel Effiong, 9.98s (NGR)

10. Leonard Myles-Mills, 9.98s (GHA)

10. Gabriel Mvumvure, 9.98s (ZIM)

10. Simon Magakwe, 9.98s (RSA)

14. Aziz Zakari, 9.99s (GHA)

15. Chidi Imoh, 10.00s (NGR)

15. Eric Nkansah, 10.00s (GHA)

Despite Nigeria’s rich history in the Sprints, our men are no longer the fastest in Africa – Olusoji Fasuba was the last Nigerian to run under 10 seconds in 2006, when he set the current African Record of 9.85s, making him No. 1 on this list of Africa’s Top Sprinters. He’s a Bronze medallist in the 4x100m from the Athens 2004 Olympics, where along with Aaron Egbele, he combined with 2 others in the above list (Aliu and Emedolu) to finish a very close third behind Team GB and USA. Things are very different these days – here’s a look at Africa’s Top 10 Sprinters so far in the 2014 Season, which features only ONE Nigerian (South Africa dominates the 2014 list so far with SIX Athletes):

1. Simon Magakwe, 9.98s (RSA)

2. Akani Simbine, 10.02 (RSA)

3. Gerald Phiri, 10.03s (ZAM)

4. Wilfired Koffi, 10.11s (CIV)

5. Henricho Bruintjies, 10.17s (RSA)

6. Gideon Trotter, 10.23s (RSA)

6. Emile Erasmus, 10.23s (RSA)

6. Seye Ogunlewe, 10.23s (NGR)

9. Mosito Lehata, 10.26s (LES)

10. Thando Roto, 10.30s (RSA)

So what’s gone wrong with men’s sprinting in Nigeria? The women seem to be doing very well at the moment – Blessing Okagbare is Africa’s fastest woman ever in the 100 metres, and our 4×400 metres Girls won a brilliant Bronze medal at the 1st ever World Relays in May. In the nineties, when Nigeria’s men played second fiddle to USA, the whole world thought that the Americans could never be toppled, but the Jamaicans have disproved that formerly wide-held belief in emphatic fashion! Nigeria, unfortunately has gone so far in the opposite direction that most Jamaicans today actually think that Nigerians are long distance runners! If you don’t believe this, see for yourself in this Teaser from the upcoming Nigerian feature-length documentary, Making of Champions: “The History”

With the African Championships in Athletics coming up in Marrakesh in August, how much hope can we have that the likes for Ogho-Oghene Egwero and Obinna Metu can win medals for Nigeria, even just in Africa? Even in Nigeria’s traditional stronghold of the  4×100 metre relay, it would seem on current form that the South Africans will have that nicely sewn up, provided that they get the baton round safely! The Biennial African Championships will hold in Marrakesh, Morocco in 2014, from August 10th-14th, and will also serve as qualifiers for the quadrennial Continental Cup on Sept 13/14th in the same location!

Simon Magakwe lining up against Usain Bolt at the 2011 World Championships. Magakwe is the fastest African so far in 2014, joining the sub-10 sprinters club with a new PB of 9.98 seconds
Simon Magakwe lining up against Usain Bolt at the 2011 World Championships. Magakwe is the fastest African so far in 2014, joining the “Sub-10 Sprinters’ Club” with a new PB of 9.98 seconds

Zambia's Gerald Phiri has run a PB of 10.03 seconds in the 100 metres in 2014
Zambia’s Gerald Phiri has run a PB of 10.03 seconds in the 100 metres in 2014

Bambo Akani is the Founder and CEO of Making of Champions (MoC). He is an avid sports writer and photo-blogger, and has quickly become an internationally recognized Athletics Expert. He appeared in a new weekly Athletics segment on the Sports Tonight Show on Channels TV during the 2014 Athletics season and has also appeared on Jamaican Television and Radio to discuss the MoC "The History" Film that he Produced and Directed, and to review and analyse key events in world athletics.Bambo holds an MEng and BA in Chemical Engineering from Cambridge University in the UK and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management in the US.


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