At least three athletes have qualified for the N1.5 million Jackpot that was up for grabs at the 2015 Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) Golden League series, after extending their domination across the three legs of the competition.
Nicholas Imhoaperamhe was unrivalled in the men’s 100m, winning the event in Anambra (10.23s, PB), Abuja (10.36s) and Akure (10.38s), thus surpassing the qualifying mark of 10.40s set by the AFN. African 100m/200m junior champion, Divine Oduduru played second fiddle to the National Sports Festival (NSF) champion, coming 2nd in all three races with a time of 10.37s, 10.40s and 10.40s respectively.
A delighted Imhoapermahe said, “I feel very great winning the race despite the fact that I am not a hundred per cent fit. I must confess that this last race wasn’t easy for me because I was running to meet the standard while trying to maintain my contention for the jackpot at the same time. I’m definitely confident that I will make the qualifying standard for the IAAF World Championships very soon.”
Tosin Adeloye was consistent in all three legs of the competition in the women’s 400m, setting PBs of 52.72s, 52.48s and 52.31s at each meeting. The standard set by the federation in the event was 53.81s, and the African junior champion had no qualms running faster than the mark. Rita Ossai (52.51s) and Funke Oladoye (52.96s) followed in 2nd and 3rd positions in Akure.
Last but certainly not the least of the trio who qualified for the Jackpot is Kure Adams Samuel who competes in the men’s Javelin throw. The Customs athlete went beyond the qualifying mark of 66.64m, recording 69.78m and 70.21m during his first two outings at the AFN Golden League.
One of the top contenders for the prize, Orukpe Erayokan missed out on securing his place among the winners after succumbing to defeat on the final day of the series, narrowly losing the men’s 400m race to Nathaniel Samson, much to the dismay of the home crowd who had been rooting for him.
The NSF GOLD medallist had led the pack for the greater part of the race but was edged out as Samson was quick to dip at the finishing line, taking the race with a PB of 46.37s while Erayokan, who clocked a PB of 46.13s in Abuja, followed in 46.40s; Noah Akwu placed 3rd with 46.99s. In an interesting turn of events, Samson had finished 3rd in Anambra (47.81s), before taking the 2nd place in Abuja (46.49s) and then culminating with a victory in Akure.
When Making of Champions caught up with Erayokan, he had this to say: “As a champion you have to accept defeat sometimes; you don’t win every time. That’s the way I take it. I didn’t know that Nathaniel Samson was going to dip at about the same time with me. I will be at the Warri Grand Prix and National Trials live and direct and I’m expecting to run a better time; I’m hoping for a 45s either in Warri or at the National Trials, but it will happen this month by fire by force.”
Samson who has represented Nigeria at the 2014 Youth Olympics and World Junior Championships was excited about his feat: “It just happened that I ran my PB; that’s the part that I’m happy about. I didn’t come here to run another person’s race. I came here to do my best. 50m before the finishing line, I expected Orukpe to extend his lead which didn’t happen, but I kept pumping my hands. My plan is to do a sub 45 before the end of the season”, he said.
Isoken Igbinosun also won two of three legs (Anambra and Akure) in the women’s 100m, but was denied a place among the contenders after finishing 2nd to rival, Nkem Ezealah in the Abuja leg of the league. The event in Akure was full of drama as both Justina Sule, and then Deborah Odeyemi beat the gun, leading to their eventual disqualification.
Meanwhile African and Commonwealth Games Long Jump champion, Ese Brume made a brilliant return after deciding to pass on the Abuja leg of the competition. The Nigerian champion needed only one jump to record a distance of 6.61m in her very first leap of the competition. She finished ahead of Abuja winner, Euphemia Edem (6.20m) and Blessing Ibrahim (6.17m).
Ibrahim won the women’s Triple Jump with a Season’s Best (SB) of 13.65m as Hope Idhe (12.74m) and Ajijo Ohadugha (12.30m) placed 2nd and 3rd respectively. Martins Ogierakhi, who won an African Championships Bronze medal in the 110 Hurdles, clocked 14.36s. Bashiru Abdullahi (14.45s) and Samuel Okon (14.49s) completed the Top 3 at the event.
The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) once again beat the Police to win the men’s 4x100m relay, while the Customs finished 3rd, but upgraded to 1st position in the women’s event .
Sponsor of the competition, Kingsley Kuku, spoke to journalists at the end of the competition. The Ondo State House of Assembly member and former Presidential Special Adviser on Niger Delta Affairs called for more support in the area of sports development:
“I was motivated to support this programme particularly because of my sporting background. I have always been a football player, I love table tennis and in very recent times, I am developing an endemic passion for lawn tennis. There is a need to develop sports because it is the unifying factor in a country like ours”, he said.