The Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) has released entry standards for athletes intending to represent the country at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.
According to a statement signed by AFN’s Head of Communication and Media, Olukayode Thomas, the federation also revealed monetary incentives for athletes that achieve its entry standards, the highest being $50,000 for any Team Nigeria Track and Field athlete who wins a GOLD medal in Rio, while Silver and Bronze medallists would be awarded $30,000 and $10,000 respectively.
However, just like the Biblical parable, it would seem easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for Nigerian athletes to meet some of the steep standards set by the federation, which are completely different and much tougher than the standards set by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
Athletes that intend to compete in the men and women’s 100m must run 10.09s and 11.10s respectively. For the 200m, the men must run 20.20s and the women 22.50s, while the entry standard for the 400m is 45.20s for men and 50.90s for women.
There is a dramatic difference of 0.22s between the standard set by AFN when compared with that of the IAAF in the women’s 100m. In the women’s 200m, there’s a yawning gap of almost one second between both standards.
This might eventually culminate in the country fielding a sole entrant in the person of Blessing Okagbare in both events as she will most likely be the only sprinter to make the standards for the 100m/200m, while the likes of Gloria Asumnu, Stephanie Kalu, Christy Udoh, Ngozi Onwumere and Lawreta Ozoh would be denied a much needed opportunity to represent the country in Rio.
Triple jumpers dreaming of going to Rio must achieve 17.25m for the men, which is just 1cm shy of Ajayi Agbebaku’s NR. The women’s standard of 14.60m is way higher than the NR of 14.21m.
As such the struggle continues for the pair of Tosin Oke and Olu Olamigoke who had already gone past the IAAF qualification mark of 16.90m by virtue of their GOLD and Silver winning feats in Brazzaville where they made leaps of 17.00m and 16.98m respectively, which was a Personal Best (PB) for Olamigoke.
According to the IAAF, qualification period commences from 1 May 2015 to 11 July 2016. However the federation stated that its standards must be achieved between 1st of January 2016 to June 30th 2016, thus erasing the qualification status of the Triple jumpers which was earned in September 2015.
The new rules also affect the country’s quartermilers led by Orukpe Erayokan who clocked a lifetime’s best of 44.95s in the semis of the men’s 400m in Brazzaville, which saw him seal his qualification to Rio. Patience Okon George also set a PB of 50.71s at the same competition, which earned her a slot at the Olympics.
However both athletes would have to commence the nerve-wracking process of qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympics once more rather than channel their efforts towards preparing the games.
The 800m standards for men and women are 1.45.30s and 2.00.00s respectively. It therefore means that Nigeria’s best middle distance runners, Soudi Hamadjam and Abike Egbeniyi would have to clock NRs to qualify for the Olympics. Ado Maude’s NR stands at 1:45.91. It is also the same case in the women’s event where the NR is 2:02.04.
The 110 Hurdles standard is 13.35s, while that of the 100m Hurdles is 12.85s. As such, the likes of Tyrone Akins, Alex Al-Amin and Martins Ogierakhi are faced with the herculean task of erasing William Erese’s NR of 13.42s since they are expected to clock 13.35s if they are to make it to Rio.
Intending athletes in the men and women’s 400m Hurdles must run 48.95s and 54.93s respectively, while the men’s High Jump standard is 2.31m and women 1.98m. It therefore goes without saying that Doreen Amata must set a new NR to achieve this feat. Both the men and women’s NRs are pegged at 2.27m and 1.95m respectively.
For Pole-vault, the standard is 5.70m for men and 4.60m for women. Men and women Shot-put throwers must achieve 20.60m and 18.50m, while the standard for Discus throw is 66.00m and 65.15m for the men and women.
79.00m is the standard for men Hammer and 72.20m for women. Male javelin throwers must achieve 83.00m and women 65.10m, meaning that the current NRs of 81.08m and 55.30m must be shattered to achieve this feat.
NR holder in the Heptathlon, Uhunoma Osazuwa will have to set a new record of 6300 points to fulfill her expectation of competing in her second Olympic Games as her current mark of 6106 won’t be adequate to see her through. 8200points must be achieved for the Decathlon, which, of course will require an NR.
For the relays, 38.50secs is for men 4x100m and 42.00secs for women. The 4x400m men must run 3.00.00s to qualify and the women 3.28.00s. Men Long jumpers must jump 8.20m and women 6.90m.
The AFN stated that it will pay athletes who meet these marks the sum of $2000, while finalists in Rio will get $2500 each. But going by these lofty standards, it is evident that only a handful of athletes may eventually secure passage to Rio, with the vast majority being left behind to serve as spectators.
If this eventually happens, won’t we be shooting ourselves in the foot by allowing our best talent watch from the sidelines as the rest of the world advances?