The Nigerian contingent at the 12th African Junior Championships holding from March 5 to 8 will be faced with the herculean task of retaining the title won two years ago in Mauritius, ahead of fierce rivals, South Africa and the likes of Ethiopia and Kenya.
These four countries, along with their North African counterpart, Egypt, have finished on the Top 5 spots on the medals table for the past three editions of the biennial championship. While Nigeria won the last edition with nine GOLD medals, South Africa clinched the trophy during the 2009 and 2011 editions held in Mauritius and Botswana respectively, and will be seeking to regain their domination on the continent.
However the host nation, Ethiopia will leave nothing to chance as they go all out to ensure that they emerge victorious on home soil, having finished as runners-up in 2011 and in 3rd place in 2013. About 100 athletes will represent the country, and are set to feature in all events, ranging from the 100m to the 10,000m.
Launching Nigeria’s attack at the championships is the duo of Ese Brume and Divine Oduduru who will be making a second appearance each at the competition. While Brume won three medals in 2013 (Long Jump and 4x100m GOLD, and Triple Jump Silver), Oduduru secured victories in the 200m and 4x100m relay in addition to the SPRINT DOUBLE he won at the African Youth Championships earlier that year.
Both athletes metamorphosed into stars after the African Juniors in 2013, as Brume has since emerged National, African Senior and Commonwealth Long Jump Champion, while Oduduru holds the enviable position of National 200m titleholder and Silver Medallist at the 2014 World Junior Championships in Oregon, which he secured with a scorching (though wind-aided) time of 20.25s.
The Nigerian team comprising of 33 athletes (18 female and 15 male) will also be counting on the experience and exposure of some of their colleagues who participated in the last edition of the tournament such as Theddus Okpara (High Jump), Daisy Akpofa (400m Hurdles), Omeiza Akerele (400m) and Judith Aniefuna (Shot Put).
All four athletes finished either as runners-up or Bronze medallists in 2013, and will be seeking to win individual titles in their events when competition kicks off at the Addis Ababa Stadium on Thursday.
Brume is expected to defend her title in the Long Jump, and will also compete in the 100m where she will be aiming for a medal, after narrowly missing a place on the podium the last time, having finished fourth.
She will be joined by Alphonsus Aniekeme and Abolaji Omotayo Oluwaseun in the 100m. Nigeria did not make the podium in the women’s 100m in 2013 as the South African duo of Thebogo Mamathu and Philippa Van Der Merve grabbed GOLD and Bronze respectively, while Ethiopia’s Tegest Tamangnu Yuma placed second.
Participating in the 200m are Aniekeme, Praise Idamadudu and Blessing Adiakerehwa. Nkiruka Uwakwe won GOLD for Nigeria in the same event two years ago, while Ada Benjamin inspired a 1-2 finish for Nigeria in the 400m alongside Rita Ossai. Idamadudu, Tosin Adeloye and Yinka Ajayi will be doing the honours this time around (in the 400m) in Addis Ababa.
Competing in the 100m Hurdles are Oluwatobiloba Amusan and Temidayo Oshibajo while Glory Nathaniel will take part in the 400m Hurdles. Others are Grace Anigbata (High Jump), Mercy Abire (Long Jump), Uche Brown (Triple Jump), Oyesade Oyewole (Shot put, Discus Throw), Kelechi Nwanaga (Discus and Javelin Throw), Tobi Asamu (4x400m) and Yinka Adiakerehwa (4x400m).
Reigning Sprint DOUBLE Champion at youth level, Oduduru will seek to add another DOUBLE in the junior category and will team up with Victor Peka, Chukwudi Olisakwe and Thankgod Igube in the 100m and 200m. Chukudike Harry emerged the fastest man in 2013, closely followed by compatriot, Emuobonuvie Mamus, and it is expected that these positions will be retained by the team.
Competing in the 400m along with 2013 Silver Medallist, Akerele, are Samson Nathaniel and Rilwan Fasasi, while African Youth Champion in 110 Hurdles, Ifeanyichukwu Atuma will be hoping for a smooth transition to Junior Champion. He will also compete in the 400m Hurdles with Timothy Emeoghene.
Completing the team are Bashiru Abdullahi (110 Hurdles), National Junior Record Holder in the Decathlon, Ituah Enahoro, Godwin Ashien (4x100m), Adewale Adeyemi (4x100m) and Abdulgafar Audu (4x100m).
Athletes from over 30 countries are expected to participate in the four-day championship.