Nigerian athletes are in a race against time as the final deadline for qualification for next month’s Olympic Games in Rio draws near.
Athletes who are yet to achieve the standards have until July 11 to secure their tickets to Brazil, and the Nigerian Trials and Warri Grand Prix holding in Sapele, Delta State from July 7 to 9 would be the last opportunity to do the needful.
About 20 athletes have already met the qualifying standards in their various events. That notwithstanding, the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) has emphatically declared that athletes who eventually make the team to Rio will be selected based on current form, and that the federation will not solely depend on their performances from last year.
As such, most of the athletes competing at the Sapele Trials from Thursday will be giving their all as there is so much at stake. Here is the schedule for Day 1 of the event.
Ogho-Oghene Egwero is the sole male sprinter to have secured the qualifying mark of 10.16s. He comes with a Season’s Best (SB) of 10.15s and also equaled his Personal Best (PB) of 10.06s at the 2015 African Games in Brazzaville, thus securing safe passage to Rio.
Reigning National Champion in the event, Seye Ogunlewe would be hoping to join him as he is just 0.02s shy of the standard after posting a PB of 10.18s at last month’s IAAF World Challenge in Madrid.
Divine Oduduru and Tega Odele have both qualified for the 200m at the Olympics, but the pair will be trying out their luck in the 100m. Oduduru especially has been in pursuit of the entry standard but will have a lot of work to do as he comes to the Sapele Trials with a PB/SB of 10.29s.
Commonwealth Games Record holder in the 100m, Blessing Okagbare has qualified for the sprint double. She will be joined in the 100m by Peace Uko who clocked 11.27s last season, while Gloria Asumnu hit 11.24s two months ago. The standard for the 100m is 11.32s, and 23.20s for the 200m.
Olivia Ekpone, Agnes Osazuwa, Aniekeme Alphonsus and a host of other female sprinters will be hoping that luck shines on them when they go against Okagbare in the women’s 100m.
Orukpe Erayokan remains the only quartermiler to have met the qualifying mark after clocking a PB of 44.95s at the African Games. The National Sports Festival (NSF) Champion has not replicated the same times this season, coming with an SB of 46.22s.
The men’s 400m is certainly going to be one of the most explosive events at the Sapele Trials, as the fastest men in 2016, Adekunle Fasasi and Chidi Okezie are yet to secure their spots in Rio. The duo comes with PBs/SBs of 45.43s and 45.76s respectively. The entry standard for the event is 45.40s.
The qualification mark for the women’s 400m is 52.20s and the trio of Patience Okon-George (50.71s), Regina George (51.30s) and Margaret Bamgbose (51.11s) has booked their tickets to Rio.
Omolara Omotosho who only returned to action after being sidelined by injury in 2015, will be aiming to run faster than her SB of 52.44s. Rita Ossai (52.57s) and 2014 National Champion Folashade Abugan will be hoping for same.
Nigeria is yet to have a representative in the 110 Hurdles and Tyron Akins (13.62s), Alex Al-Ameen (13.70s) and Martins Ogierarkhi will be targeting the qualifying mark of 13.47s. Akins had hoped to use the African Championships in Durban as the perfect opportunity to qualify for Rio but things didn’t pan out quite well for him.
Tobi Amusan will be looking forward to making her debut at the Olympics after clocking a PB of 12.83s to win the UTEP Invitational on April 30. Lindsay Wenyime and 2007 African Games Champion Toyin Augustus (13.25s) will be presented with a final opportunity to go under 13.00s if they are to go to Brazil.
Miles Ukaoma won the 2015 National Trials in the men’s 400m Hurdles with a PB and Championship Record of 48.84s, and it was adequate to qualify him for the Rio Games. Amaka Ogoegbunam also made it through after winning the African Games title with a time of 55.86s. The likes of Tameka Jameson and Ugonna Ndu haven’t been as fortunate though, and will need prove their mettle at the Sapele Trials.
Tosin Oke and Olu Olamigoke won GOLD and Silver respectively in the men’s Triple Jump in Brazzaville last year, and their marks of 17.00m and 16.98m respectively, surpassed the entry standard of 16.85m. New entrant Felix Obi (16.40m) and Kola Adedoyin will be counting on the stiff competition in Sapele to spur them to greater heights.
The Rio 2016 Games is expected to be Doreen Amata’s third outing at the Olympics. Nigeria will have a worthy representative in the men’s Shot put in the person of Stephen Mozia who improved on his National Record (NR) several times to qualify for his first Olympics.
Nwanneka Okwelogu will also compete in the women’s event after setting a PB of 17.91m, while Chinwe Okoro will be in action in the Discus throw in Brazil after setting an NR of 61.58m in April.
NR holder in the Heptathlon, Uhunoma Osazuwa narrowly missed the automatic Olympic qualifying standard by just 47 points after setting a Championship Record (CR) and NR of 6, 153points in Durban.
She has one more chance to hit the standard, but in the event that she fails to, Osazuwa will hope that her score remains among the top 32 of best ranked athletes as released by the IAAF on July 12.
Most of the Olympic medals Nigeria has won in Track and Field are in the relays. It is therefore disappointing that the women’s 4x100m team is the only squad to have qualified for the Olympics after getting to the final of the 2015 IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas.
The African Championships in Durban would have been the best opportunity for the other relay teams to do same, but the country failed to present teams in the men and women’s 4x100m as well as the men’s 4x400m for the first time ever in the history of the championships.
It remains to be seen if this sorry situation can be salvaged when the Warri Relays get underway on Saturday, July 11.