What a way to end the final day of Athletics at the 2015 All African Games, with Team Nigeria winning an additional three GOLDs on Thursday to cement what has been an impressive outing in Congo Brazzaville.
On Monday, it was just one GOLD for Nigeria, but from Tuesday it became a sequence of having three of that colour till it was curtains fall in the sport.
Amaka Ogoegbunam set the marker, getting underway with victory in the women’s 400m Hurdles and running a time of 55.56s, beating compatriot Ajoke Odumosu who incidentally was the defending champion to make it a Nigerian 1-2. Coming into the race, Odumosu who was the 2010 Commonwealth champion was seen as the favourite, especially after running the fastest time in the heats with 57.31s.
However, Ogoebunam showed she really wanted the win, getting off the blocks and crossing her barriers with zeal, leaving Odumosu with no opportunity to close in as the latter came in to win Silver in 57.63s and limping after the race as she looked to have aggravated an injury. Namibia’s Lilianne Klaasman took the Bronze in 58.68s.
In the 4x400m relays, two Nigerian teams competed with the women winning GOLD in 3:27.12. Rita Ossai started the race for Nigeria and did her part to hand over the baton first, with Funke Oladoye opening up the gap and maintaining a good lead that saw Oluwatosin Adeloye consolidating before Patience Okon George anchored the team to victory.
Nigeria has always been a good relay-running nation, and if they missed out on a podium finish at the 2015 World Championships, never was the Nigerian quartet ruffled on Thursday, as they looked like they had already been crowned champions on paper even before taking to the track and executing a good race to win.
Botswana finished 2nd clocking 3:32.84, with Kenya taking the Bronze in 3:35.91.
The Nigerian male team was not able to replicate the performance of their female counterparts, finishing 4th in a time of 3:00.34. Kenya was the surprise package in the event setting a new Championship Record(CR) of 3:00.34 to defeat a Bostwanan team that had former 400m African Record holder, Isaac Makwala and even 2014 Commonwealth 800 Champion, Nigel Amos. Botswana finished 2nd, running a new National Record (NR) of 3:00.95. Algeria counted on the experience of Abdulmalik Lahoulou who had already won the 400m Hurdles on Wednesday to secure the Bronze in 3:03.07.
It may not have gone the way of the Nigeria’s quartet: Nathaniel Samson, Henry Okorie, Robert Simmons, Orukpe Erayokan, but they gave it good fight to finish in 3:03.52
In the women’s 200m final for both categories, it was identical finishes for both Ivory Coast and Nigeria.
Marie Josee Talou made it a double, crossing the line in 22.57s to win GOLD in the event, and was stretchered out because of an injury. Nigeria’s duo of Ngozi Onwumere and Lawretta Ozoh joined Talou on the podium, finishing 2nd & 3rd in 23.24s and 23.37s respectively.
There was Ivory Coast’s Wilfried Koffi-Hua in the men’s category to contend with, and it was the 100m All African Games Bronze medallist who came out tops in 20.42s to take GOLD. Divine Oduduru ran another Personal Best (PB), finishing 2nd in 20.45s to win Silver, a day after he ran two PBs of 20.57s and 20.51s. Peter Odele Tega won Bronze in 20.58s, with Obinna Metu finishing 5th in 20.74s.
With only the first two jumps scored for Samson Idiata, the Nigerian had done just enough to win GOLD in the men’s Long Jump with a mark of 7.83m. Idiata committed fouls in the last four attempts, but none other athlete was able to match his performance.
Senegal won the Silver and Bronze through Ndiss Kaba Badji and Mamadou Gueye who leapt their best marks of 7.74m and 7.69m respectively. Nigeria’s other athlete in the competition, Ezekiel Ewulo finished 7th with a mark of 7.39m.
In the women’s Shot Put, Claire Eke who only on Wednesday won the women’s Discus, came close to making it a double as she won Silver with a mark of 16.64m. Cameroon’s Auriole Dongmo won with a mark of 17.21m, and South Africa’ s Sonia Smuts Bronze with 15.92m.
At the end of Athletics, Nigeria had won a total of 20 medals from the sport: 10 GOLD, 7 Silvers and 3 Bronzes. It has been an impressive outing from the country and there is hope of no relent in getting these athletes fly the national flag with excellence.