Team Nigeria captured 2 GOLD and 4 Silver medals to finish 3rd at the just concluded African Youth Athletics Championships (AYAC), which was held at the Maryse Justin Stadium, Reduit, Mauritius, while South Africa claimed the top spot from Nigeria with a whopping 17 GOLD, 6 Silver and 6 Bronze medals!
Kenya followed in 2nd place with 8 GOLD, 9 Silver and 2 Bronze medals while Botswana and Algeria finished 4th and 5th respectively with 2 Gold, 2 Silver and 2 Gold, 2 Bronze medals. The contingent suffered a setback prior to the championships, as the team arrived late for the competition with a depleted team due to lack of funds, thereby missing out on some key events like the 100m and 400m Boys’ and Girls’ events.
The late arrival of the team also limited the performance of the athletes in Mauritius. However they rallied round to win GOLD in the women’s Relay Medley with a team comprising of Aniekeme Alphonsus, Praise Idamadudu, Omotayo Abolaji and Blessing Adiakerenwa. Incidentally, three of the four athletes were part of Nigeria’s Gold winning 4x100m relay team at last month’s African Junior Championships in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The second GOLD medal was secured by Fadakemi Olude who won the 5000m with a CR of 25:20.28, erasing the formermarkof 29:31.0. Following Nigeria’s absence in the 100m, the South Africans dominated the sprints in both categories. Nicola De Bruyn equalled the Championship Records (CR) of 11.87s to win the title, while Damaris Akoth of Kenya (12.53s) and Severine Moutia of Mauritius (12.80s) placed 2nd and 3rd in the 100m.
The South African carried her impressive form to the 200m but had to contend against reigning African Junior Champion, Praise Idamadudu. The pair both dipped inside 24s to run faster than the CR of 24.13s in Heat 1. However de Bruyn took the race with a time of 23.74s while Idamadudu followed in 23.92s.
Both athletes rekindled their rivalry in the final where the South African edged the Nigerian with a new CR of 23.59s, while Idamadudu took 2nd in 23.79s. Fellow Nigerian, Alphonsus finished 4th in the race (24.84s) but went on to win Silver in the Long Jump with a Personal Best (PB) of 5.50m. Tobechukwu Onwokocha won the same colour of medal in the Boys’ category , which happened to be Nigeria’s FIRST medal in the tournament.
The same feat was replicated in the Boys’ race as South Africa’s Gift Leotlela took the 100m title with a slightly wind-aided time of 10.38s. His team mate Kyle Appel took Silver in 10.49s while Shingirai Hlanguyo from Zimbabwe placed 3rd (10.52s).
It was Leotlela all the way in the 200m as he stormed to the title with another CR of 20.84s! He was followed by Botswana’s Thabiso Sekgopi (21.43s) as Nigeria’s Usheoritse Ese placed 4th in the event where he clocked 22.01s. African Junior Champion in the 400m, Karabo Sibanda of Botswana added the Youth title after clocking 47.40s.
Adiakerenwa participated in the 400m Hurdles where she finished in 5th position in 1:02.42, while Sikiru Adewale finished 4th in the Boy’s category with a time of 53.81s. Precious Ojeikere finished 4th as well in the 110 Hurdles.
South Africa went on to take the Medley Relay in 1:53.60s with Botswana and Gambia coming 2nd and 3rd respectively. Nigeria’s quartet of Usheoritse, Ojeikere, Adewale and Prior Ochonogor narrowly missed out on a place on the podium in 4th place (1:55.42).
Nigeria hosted and won the 1st edition of the African Youth Athletics Championships, which was held in Warri in 2013 where the likes of Divine Oduduru represented the country for the first time.