The search for Nigeria’s next generation of Olympians began on February 7, 2015 with the kick-off of the Lagos Auditions for Making of Champions’ (MoC) upcoming Reality TV show, Top Sprinter Genesis, which is set to hit the airwaves later this year.
The first closed auditions for the Reality Show were held at University of Lagos Sports Centre, with about ten prospective athletes featuring in the programme under the tutelage of one of Nigeria’s fastest men ever, Deji Aliu, who teamed up with MoC last month in the quest to find Nigeria’s next generation of World Class Athletes!
The athletes went through some training sessions with Coach Aliu, who was able to gauge their fitness levels, going by the performances posted during the work out sessions and speed tests. The coach also had a pep talk with the athletes afterwards, highlighting areas they needed to improve on, whilst also commending their tenacity, hard work and determination.
The second closed auditions followed a week later (February 14) with a surge in the number of athletes that turned up for the event, with over 20 in attendance, some of whom were outstanding at the 2015 Lagos Secondary School Sports Festival (Ibile Games) which took place towards the end of January.
Owing to the increase in the number of athletes, it was therefore no surprise that the competition was stiffer, as participants competed in the 100m according to their different age groups and categories. Victoria Chukwumah, a bronze medallist in both the 200m/400m events at the Ibile Games, gave her fellow contestants a good run for their money, while Ikoko Onengie was outstanding in the male category.
Athens 2004 Olympic Bronze medallist, Coach Aliu, who believes that Nigeria remains a deep mine of untapped potential, could not hide his excitement at the raw talent that was on display at the venue of the auditions.
It was a test of both speed and mental strength on the third and final day of the auditions, which was held on February 21 at the same venue, with over 60 athletes in attendance! It proved to be the best and most exciting of all, being the DECISION DAY, meaning that only the best 25 athletes would proceed to the next stage of the competition.
The tension was palpable as the athletes went through their drills and workouts, before being separated according to their events. There were two semi-finals each in the men’s 200m and women’s 100m, with the four fastest in each race progressing to the finals.The men’s 100m had four semi-finals, with 3rd and 4th in each race going through to the ‘B’ final, while 1st and 2nd went straight to the ‘A’ final. There was also a straight final for the women’s 400m.
Ruth Usoro won the 100m finals ahead of Moyosore Badejo and Omosola Omolayo, thereby, automatically making the Top 25 list. In the Men’s category, Onengie Ikoko stole the show once again as he won comfortably ahead of Edwin Peter and Charles David while Chidozie Uwajumogo won the ‘B’ finals ahead Fuad Lawal.
The men’s 200m was another explosive race as Ibile Games 100m, 200m and 4x100m Champion, Ese Oguma fought his way hard to the finish line to win ahead of Kolawole Arewa and James Ubong.
Victoria Chukwumah took the women’s 400m race and was selected alongside second placed Nwaokoro Blessing into the Top 25.
The identity of all the athletes in the Top 25 will be revealed in due course. Worthy of note is the fact that all the winners of the various events are secondary school students who are still all below 18 years. Will some of these athletes perhaps qualify to represent Nigeria at the World Youth Championships in Colombia in July? Only time will tell.
With the conclusion of the Lagos Auditions, the MoC train is set to invade other regions of the country in March, in search of the best talents who will take the country to heights yet to be experienced in Nigeria Track and Field.
The search continues!
All Photos by Zemaye Okediji of Exwhyzee Photography.