With the biennial World Championships held in August and the African Games in September, how well did Nigerian athletes fare in their respective events in 2015? We will examine Nigeria’s Top 12 athletes, their performances this year and why each of them merits a place in our ratings.
Many Nigerian athletes competed across the globe in various meets and some set Personal Bests (PBs), having something to account for this year. However, it wasn’t all rosy as the country didn’t have a medal to boast of, having fielded 17 athletes at the Worlds in Beijing.
If the athletes didn’t do so well at the World Championships, they atoned for it at the African Games in Congo Brazzaville, with Nigeria winning 10 GOLD, 7 Silver and 3 Bronze medals, making it a total of 20 medals, which helped in erasing the gloom and ghosts from Beijing, thereby ending the season respectably.
So let’s cut to the chase and get into who ranked where, and how they performed, starting from 12 to 1:
12) Orukpe Erayokan
This is a guy who correctly depicts the definition of: “Hard work pays”. For so long Erayokan had been aiming to go beyond 46s and it seemed elusive. He had a telling disappointment looking at the time-board after pushing himself at the Oba Golden League, seeing that he returned a time of 46.28s.
Despite being favoured to win the National title, he was usurped by an unheralded Chidi Okezie in Warri who won the 400m title in 46.15s. Orupke even finished a distant 5th with a time of 46.58s.
However, all that changed in September as gloom turned to bloom for Orukpe in Brazzaville where he ran two PBs in two days. Orupke dipped below 46s for the first time in his career, finishing 2nd in round one of the men’s 400m with a time of 45.84s.
As if that was not astonishing enough, he bettered that time with a lifetime’s best of 44.95s to win his semifinal race and make the final. Afterwards, on his achievement Orukpe told us exclusively at the mixed zone: “I can’t even believe myself.”
With that achievement, Erayokan becomes only the fifth Nigerian male athlete to run below 45s in the 400m. Innocent Egbunike has an NR of 44.17s that has stood since 1987; Sunday Bada’s 44.63s at Stuttgart in 1993, Clement Chukwu’s 44.65s at Dakar in 1998 and Godday James 44.90s in 2008 in Abuja; these are the times better than Erayokan’s.
With his commitment and determination, Erayokan has indeed proven that hard work pays, and has deservedly earned a place in our Top 12 Nigerian athletes.