As the curtains were drawn on the last day of the 2016 African Championships held in Durban, South Africa, Team Nigeria would look back and know they didn’t have one of the best outings in a competition they ought to be challenging to win, finishing lower than 2nd place for the first time since the 2006 Championships in Mauritius.
After five days, South Africa was the undisputed champions dominating all round as they won three times the number of GOLD medals Nigeria won at the Championships. South Africa won a total of 33 laurels: 16 GOLD, 9 Silver and 8 Bronze medals while Kenya won 24: 8 GOLD, 8 Silver and 8 Bronze medals.
Nigeria got a total of 16 medals: 4 GOLD, 5 Silver and 7 Bronze to finish in third place. In fact coming into the last day, Nigeria was in strong contention to finish 2nd overall with both countries having four GOLDs each. However, it was not to be as Kenya won an additional 4 GOLD medals which saw them extend their lead over Nigeria and secure 2nd place.
Tameka Jameson was the first Nigerian athlete in action on the final day, running a time of 57.17s to win Bronze in the women’s 400m Hurdles. South Africa’s Wenda Nel won GOLD in 54.86s as Kenya’s Maureen Jelegat took Silver in 56.12s.
In the women’s High Jump, Doreen Amata finished 2nd after clearing 1.82m and missing all three at attempts 1.85m. Seychelles’ Lissa Labiche won GOLD being the only athlete to clear 1.85m and bowed out at 1.93m. Labiche last won this event in 2012, winning GOLD with a then National Record of 1.82m, before taking a break to return in 2015 after childbirth. Egypt’s Basant Hassan took Bronze scaling a height of 1.79m.
The duo of Nwanneka Okwelogu and Chioma Onyekwere who were part of Nigeria’s clean sweep in the women’s Discus, also finished within the medal zone in the Shot Put. Okwelogu took Silver with a throw of 17.07m as Onyekwere got Silver throwing a distance of 15.71m. Cameroon’s Sally Muriol Dongmo won the event with a mark 17.64m.
Coming from a semifinal race that saw him run the second fastest time in the men’s 200m in 20.48s, it was painful not seeing Divine Oduduru compete in the final on Sunday. Oduduru copped an injury in the race on Saturday, thereby robbing him of an opportunity to gain a place on the podium.
That Nigeria competed in just one relay in itself is a travesty, but losing the women’s 4x400m GOLD spoke volumes. In the past, this race would have been locked down as African countries rarely ruffled Nigeria in this event, only to lose it with just about 80m to the end.
Cheered by the home crowd at the stadium, Caster Semenya who had just won GOLD thirty minutes earlier in the women’s 800m, was buoyed by the support she got and didn’t disappoint the fans as she came from 3rd position to massively close the gap and anchor them to GOLD in 3:28.49, blowing away Nigeria’s Patience Okon George who was on the last leg.
Nigeria’s quartet of Omolora Osomoto, Regina George, Yinka Ajayi and Okon George finished 2nd in 3:29:94, summing up a Championships Nigeria never really troubled to win.
With Nigeria traveling to Durban with a small team, the lack of adequate planning showed in the fact Nigeria was unable to even present a team in three out of the four relays, when smaller countries like Swaziland could present a team. This no doubt explains why Nigeria went from finishing 2nd in Marrakech two years ago with 24 medals (8 GOLD, 9 Silver & 7 Bronze) and can now account for just 16 medals in 2016.
With Lagos, Nigeria awarded the next hosting rights of the African Championships, the country will cast a hard look on itself, knowing that any thing rather than victory on home turf won’t be accepted.