Nigeria’s hopes of securing a Commonwealth medal in the men’s 100m ended last night at Hampden Park in Glasgow, as the country’s sole finalist Mark Jelks finished in fifth place in 10.17s. The title was won by Jamaica’s Kemar Bailey-Cole who stormed to gold in 10.00s flat and was closely followed by England’s Adam Gemili in 10.10s, to the clear delight of himself and the home crowd, while another Jamaican, Nickel Ashmeade got the bronze in 10.12s.
This is Jelk’s first outing for Nigeria, having recently switched allegiance from the US and though the 30-year-old was hoping for a podium finish, his efforts are nonetheless commendable, going by the fact that he was the only African in the final that boasted of three Jamaicans, amongst others. Jelks, who emerged National Champion at the Nigeria’s trials earlier this year was entered to the 100m alongside another newly acquired American athlete, 33-year-old Monzavous Edwards who finished 2nd in the trials, and Ogho-Oghene Egwero, 3rd at the trials. The duo however fell by the wayside, with Egwero finishing 8th in his semi-final with 10.40s while Edwards didn’t fare much better, trailing in 7th in his semi with 10.30s. Jelks had qualified for the final as one of the fastest losers in the semis where he posted a time of 10.13s.
In the absence of some of the tournament favourites and leading names such as Trinidad and Tobago’s Richard Thompson, No. 1 in the Commonwealth this year with 9.82s but failed to progress to the final, and Jamaica’s Nesta Carter (SB 9.98s), Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake and the big man himself Usain Bolt, one would have expected the newly converted athletes to have at least made an impact, going by the controversy that has trailed their acquisition of the Nigerian passport and their subsequent selection to Team Nigeria. One of them, Robert Simmons, did not even need to appear at the Nigerian Trials to suit up for his new country yesterday in the 400 metres, thus calling the whole selection process into question. Incidentally, he failed to finish his 400m heat, pulling up half way through due to injury!
In the 110m Hurdles on Tuesday morning, another American recruit, 28-year-old Tyron Akins, crashed out of the 110m Hurdles after finishing 4th in Heat 2 in a time of 13.75s. Akins won the Nigerian title at the trials in June, and at his best about 6 years ago he was a 13.25s runner. Former Team GB athlete Alex Al-Ameen, who qualifies to for the Green Passport by virtue of his Nigerian father, just scraped through to the final, qualifying as one of the fastest loser’s from Heat 1 in a time of 13.71s. As we predicted yesterday in our analysis, Akins and Al-Ameen were likely competing for one fastest loser spot, and that proved to be the case. Though Al-Ameen’s chances of making an impact in the final are slim to none, the 25-year-old should be encouraged as an athlete who COULD improve for Team Nigeria over the next 5 years!
All this then begets the question we asked at the start of the week – were any of the recruited Americans really good enough to win Commonwealth GOLD in the first place? And if they are not good enough at THIS LEVEL, what on earth will happen when Team USA is in the mix, and Jamaica’s A-team return for the World Championships and Olympics in the next 2 years? Does Nigeria really need to adopt this strategy of recruiting older American athletes rather than developing our own future stars? Have they really justified their inclusion into the team? Should we not have allowed the likes of 22-year old Seye Ogunlewe, Nigeria’s best young sprint talent, the opportunity to experience individual 100m sprinting at the Commonwealth Games, while grooming him for years to come?
The jury is out on this one, but they have very nearly reached a verdict already, after just THREE days of Athletics action at the Games. The last of Nigeria’s American recruits is Nichole Denby, who competes in the 100m Hurdles on Thursday. Can she fare any better? We won’t have long to wait to find out.