Nigeria did not present teams in the men’s 4x100m and 4x400m events at the London 2012 Olympics Games, and history is set to repeat itself as poor planning has once again cost Team Nigeria the men’s 4x100m and 4x400m slots at the forthcoming Games in Rio.
For a country that has always prided itself as a relay nation, with the relays accounting for eight of Nigeria’s 23 Olympic medals – it is a travesty that the ‘Giant of Africa’ would be missing in these events. Both teams did not meet the qualifying times for the Rio Olympics after competing at the Confederation of Africa Athletics (CAA) Grand Prix in Sapele on Saturday, July 9.
The athletes had to face the pressure of trying to run the qualifying times with less than two days to the July 11 deadline given by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
Unfortunately, they did not have only the pressure of qualification to contend with: they also had to grapple with windy conditions at the Sapele Township Stadium due to heavy rains, and fatigue after competing non-stop, first in the National Trials (July 7 and 8), and then the Grand Prix.
The women’s 4x100m team wasn’t under as much pressure as they had already met the entry standards after getting to the final of the 2015 IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas, finishing 7th. The Top 8 teams from the World Relays automatically qualified for the Rio Olympics, and will be joined by the next eight fastest teams in the world rankings for the year as released by the IAAF on July 12.
Nigeria ‘Team A’ comprising of the quartet of Gloria Asumnu, Blessing Okagbare, Jennifer Madu and Agnes Osazuwa took the women’s 4x100m relay in Sapele, bringing home the baton in 43.86s. It was the same story in the women’s 4x400m as ‘Team A’ also raced for time, trying to run quicker than their Silver winning time of 3:29.34 in Durban.
Instead, Omolara Omotosho, Regina George, Patience Okon-George and Margaret Bamgbose ran a slower time of 3:30.17, and will be hoping to make it to Rio as one of the Top 8 on the world rankings (based on the aggregate of their two fastest times) as the squad did not qualify for the final in the Bahamas, and do not meet the requirements for automatic qualification.
The men’s 4x100m team didn’t compete in the Bahamas last year. As such, Ogho-Oghene Egwero, Monzavous Edwards, Divine Oduduru and Seye Ogunlewe were handed the daunting task of trying to run a scorching time of at least a 38-low to qualify as one of the Top 8 in the world. The quartet fell short by almost two seconds, posting a time of 40.78s at the end of the day to put paid their dreams of going to Rio.
USA, Jamaica, Japan, Brazil, France, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago and Germany are the first eight teams that have already booked their spots in the men’s 4x100m in Rio by virtue of their status as finalists at the 2015 World Relays.
With a little more practice and better weather conditions, Nigeria’s ‘Team A’ in the men’s 4x400m at the CAA Grand Prix in Sapele may have stood a chance of running a very fast time. New 400m Champion Adekunle Fasasi had a very good start before handing the baton to Chidi Okezie, who passed it on to Miles Ukaoma, while Paul Dedewo anchored, giving it his all.
However, their winning mark of 3:04.91 did not suffice as they needed a time within the range of a 3:02.00. The eight teams that have secured automatic qualification in this event are the US, Bahamas, Belgium, Jamaica, Brazil, Great Britain, Trinidad and Tobago and Botswana.
The country had the grace of about one year to attempt to run times worthy of qualification, but didn’t maximize this opportunity, considering that the last relay competition the athletes competed in was the Penn Relays in April. The Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) Golden League may have served as a platform for practice, but the relay events weren’t listed in all four legs of the meeting.
It would be recalled that a number of athletes were upset after the relays, which had been listed at the first leg of the Golden League in Abuja, were eventually cancelled even though the athletes had already warmed up for the event. This almost led to a confrontation between the athletes and officials.
Last month’s African Senior Athletics Championships in Durban would have been the perfect chance for both teams to meet the qualifying times due to the high standard of competition, but lack of funds bungled this opportunity once again as the country didn’t go with a complete team, and didn’t compete in the men’s 4x100m and 4x400m relays, as well as the women’s 4x100m event.
The non-qualification of the men’s teams for international competitions is becoming a new trend – an alarming one at that, with Nigeria not qualifying for the 4x100m at the past three editions of the IAAF World Championships (Daegu 2011, Moscow 2013 and Beijing 2015), and the 4x400m for two editions (Daegu 2011 and Beijing 2015).
We are hoping that this narrative takes a turn for the better by the time the London 2017 World Championships take centre stage a year from now.
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