Team Nigeria had a memorable outing on Day 1 of the ECOWAS Under 20 Athletics Championships taking place in Cape Coast Ghana, winning an avalanche of eight GOLD medals in a dominant display against their West African counterparts.
Having arrived Cape Coast around 6am local time on Thursday, with just a day’s rest, Team Nigerian athletes were not deterred as they excelled in all the events they competed in on Friday.
With many people staying back to the watch the 100m finals which drew the curtains, they did not leave disappointed, as the quality of the races that ensued were top draw and well worth the less than 12s spent watching it.
In the women’s 100m final, and with Joy Udo Gabriel coming up against Ghana’s Halutie Hor and Rosemary Chukwuma, it was one race not to miss, especially as both Hor and Udo-Gabriel know each other very well from the 2018 Commonwealth Games, where both of them competed against each other in the same heat of the women’s 100m semis.
Buoyed by home support who backed her all the way, Ghana’s Hor looked like she was destined for the win, however Udo Gabriel had other ideas as she outpaced her in the last 10m to dip for the win in 11.72s. Hor settled for Silver in 11.74s and Chukwuma Bronze got in 11.78s.
It has been a good year for Udo Gabriel, who has now added the ECOWAS title to the impressive numbers she has posted this year, now winning two medals on her two outings for Nigeria so far.
In the men’s 100m, the duo of Alaba Akintola and Omubo Gershon renewed their rivalry,and it was the latter who got the win in 10.54s. Edwin Kwabla won the Silver in 10.57s and Akintola 3rd in 10.63s.
Omubo showed signs of what was to come, after running the fastest time in the three semis, clocking 10.57s. Incidentally, he was also in the same heat as Alaba who finished 2nd in 10.64s.
The sign of what was to come for Team Nigeria on Day 1, came through Adeyinka Bamtefa who started what was to be a GOLD rush for Nigeria, defying the wet conditions to win the women’s 1500m with a time of 4:36.90. Ghana’s Rita Kyere was 2nd in 4:38.60 and Togo’s Celina Lare 3rd in 4:52.47
In the men’s 800m, Hamid Sambo ran a good home straight to win GOLD for Nigeria in 1:53.00 beating Niger’s Chaibou Illa who was 2nd in 1:53.66 and Ghana’s Fredrick Osei 3rd in 1:53.70.
With Abasiono Akpan disqualified for a false start in the women’s 400m Hurdles, Joy Abu held the fort, racing to GOLD in 1:04.90, with Ghana’s Mariama Fatao 2nd in 1:08.21 and Burkina Faso’s Koala Fatoumata 3rd in 1:11.80
David Olowookere clinched the Silver medal in the men’s 400m Hurdles, finishing with a time of 54.30s with Ghana’s Mammoudou winning the race in 52.03s. Osborn Turkson was the other Ghanaian on the podium, finishing 3rd in 55.53s
In the field events, it was the same tale as on the tracks as Nigeria won three Golds in the four events they competed in.
The men’s Long Jump produced a Nigerian 1-2 with Arinze Benjamin who jumped just twice after cramping and couldn’t finish, winning GOLD with his second attempt of 7.09m.
Meyiwa Ineh joined Benjamin on the podium for Nigeria, winning Silver with a mark of 6.97m and Ghana’s Harry Afavoe winning Bronze with 6.85m.
Meanwhile in the women’s Shot Put, Hannah Kemele increased #TeamNigeria’s Gold tally winning with a throw of 13.01m. Ghana’s Rashida Abass won Silver with 11.49m, and Liberia’s Lawrima Cooper got the Bronze with 11.13m.
Earlier on in the day, Nigeria’s Victory George had won Bronze in the women’s Triple Jump with a mark of 11.96m.
The women’s High Jump was intriguing, as Team Nigeria’s Esther Isa had to endure jeers any time she attempted a jump, with the Ghanaians stoking up support for their own, Rose Amoenimaa who finished 2nd with a jump of 1.71m. Although Isa copped a knee injury in the process, she still managed it to win GOLD with a mark o 1.75m. Burkina Faso’s Fatimata Zoungraba was 3rd with 1.55m
On paper, Team Nigeria had the best quartet to win both the men and women’s 4x100m, however some mix up and poor communication in the zones saw Ghana win in both categories.
Ghana’s Hor was on her bike, getting to the finish before Nigeria’s Chukwuma to win the women’s 4x100m final with a time of 45.85s, with Nigeria finishing 2nd in 46.41s and Cote d’ivoire 3rd in 49.88s.
Team Ghana completed the double in the 4x100m relay, winning the men’s category in 40.77s and Nigeria getting the Silver in 40.91s, as Cote d’ivoire also settled for Bronze like in the women’s category, this time they clocked a time of 43.23s