The track of the University of Port Harcourt Sports Complex will be set alight when the second leg of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) Golden League kicks off on Saturday in Rivers State.
Having sat out the AFN All-Comers in Abuja, Kaduna Golden League and Commonwealth Camping Trials which all took place in the last quarter of 2017, a good number of Nigeria’s elite athletes will be opening their 2018 Athletics season at the two-day competition in Port Harcourt.
Among the star-studded cast headlining the Port Harcourt Golden League are London 2017 semi-finalists Patience Okon-George, Yinka Ajayi and Glory Nathaniel; men’s 400m National Champion Samson Nathaniel; Beijing 2008 Silver medallist Agnes Osazuwa and a host of others. Four-time Champion at the 2017 Nigeria University Games Association (NUGA) Games, Praise Idamadudu is also competing for the first time this season.
As such, it is expected that there would be explosive competition in events like the women’s 400m where 2014 African Champion Folashade Abugan, who took a break after competing at the AFN All-Comers in Abuja, will square off with her rivals Okon-George, Ajayi and Ifunanya Muoghalu who tops the 2018 standings with her Personal Best (PB) of 54.50s set at the Kaduna Golden League.
The Making of Champions athlete will be looking forward to lowering her PB while running alongside her more experienced counterparts who will be out to make an impact ahead of the Commonwealth Games Trials in February. Add Idamadudu to the mix and the women’s 400m is set to be one of the highlights of the Port Harcourt Golden League.
The rivalry between Samson Nathaniel, 2018 leader Bamidele Emmanuel and Orukpe Erayokan will be stoked in the men’s 400m, and it will be interesting to see how that pans out. Emmanuel currently tops the 2018 list with his time of 46.48s set in Kaduna.
In a chat with Making of Champions, Nathaniel says he is looking forward to doing his best in Port Harcourt: “It is my hope that God will do what only He can do. I am not looking at anybody; just going there to do my thing. I am sure we will all do our best to take our event to the top”, he said.
Isoken Igbinosun tops the 2018 standings in the women’s 100m with her time of 11.48s clocked at the Kaduna Golden League. This time around however, she will be contending with Osazuwa who is competing for the first time this season and will be hoping to start on a good note. The likes of Maria Thompson Omokwe, Rosemary Chukwuma and Marvelous Asemota are also athletes to watch out for.
Ogho-Oghene Egwero is the man to beat in the 100m and the 2015 African Games Silver medallist will be hoping to extend his winning streak as he dominates the 2018 standings with his time of 10.37s, which he returned at the Commonwealth Games Camping Trials. He will however need to be wary of the threat posed by Usheoritse Itsekiri (10.44s) who seems to be in good form, as well as old foe Obinna Metu (10.51s) and Jerry Jakpa (10.49s).
Making of Champions’ Jakpa has enjoyed a good outing thus far in the 200m and tops the rankings with 21.28s set at the Abuja All-Comers. He will be looking forward to breaking his PB in the event and will hope to make the most of the competition that National Champion Emmanuel Arowolo brings, not forgetting Prosper Ogbonna who clocked a wind-aided 20.87s at the Kaduna Golden League.
Maria Thompson Omokwe who is the National Champion in the women’s 200m will hope to extend her dominance, especially as she ranks No.1 in the event with her time of 23.56s which she set in Abuja last month. It remains to be seen if she can hold off an onslaught from Chukwuma (24.33s), Idamadudu who is also a former national champion in the event, and other contenders.
Glory Nathaniel will be keen to begin her season on a high, having enjoyed a spectacular 2017 which saw her get to the semifinal of the World Championships at her maiden outing at the competition. The 400m Hurdles specialist will be hoping to impress ahead of next month’s Commonwealth Games Trials.
Here is the official schedule of the Port Harcourt Golden League.