A quarter miler isn’t so much like every other athlete. It is believed that they’ve got a toughened spirit that makes them able to sprint for a full 400m while the technicalities and intensity involved raises the stakes considerably.
Emmanuel Ojeli has gone from sprinting 52s in 2016 at the Top Sprinter competition, to pulling out a sensational 46.98s at the National Sports Festival (NSF) in 2018, which is by no means a mediocre performance.
Like the saying goes, talent without hard work amounts to waste. He was taken under the ‘umbrella’ of Making of Champions (MoC) where his abilities were exposed to the tutelage of Olympic Medallist Coach, Deji Aliu. The first time Ojeli was out in a full MoC kit was at the All Comers in Abuja in November 2017, where he shaved off a hundredth of a second from his former Personal Best (PB), bettering the time in the finals in 47.90s.
Against the strong winds of the Northern harmattan in the city of Kaduna at the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) Golden League in December 2017, he finished 3rd in his 400m heat again in a new PB of 47.74s and posted a wind-aided 21.21s in the 200m.
The AFN Golden League was a sure way of getting better, rubbing shoulders with the best in Nigeria. The Port-Harcourt leg came in January 2018 and he ran a legal 21.81s in the 200m; he also went all out in his trademark event – the 400m, in 6th with a time of 47.79s.
He kept churning out good results in competitions. In Ozoro, he won his 400m heat in 48.24s but placed 3rd in the finals in 48.35s. Another big break came at the MoC Grand Prix & Relays in June where he stunned more established athletes in the 400m final, racing to a big PB of 47.47s, an encouragement he needed to help raise his game to become an athlete the whole nation could start looking out for.
He thereafter secured a spot to run for Lagos at the National Sports Festival (NSF) in Abuja after winning the Lagos State Trials. Taking a cue from his growth and training straight into the latter part of the outdoor season, the budding Ojeli was lined up in a battle; it was a battle for the men with the best sprint endurance all over the nation.
Ojeli’s challenge in the first round was facing African Championships Bronze Medallist Chidi Okezie, who won the race, with Ojeli finishing 2nd in 47.35s. It was even more difficult having a man such as Orukpe Erayokan in his semifinal race. He simply powered out, one step ahead of another, fiercely competing in his most familiar swinging manner, reaching the line in a lifetime best of 46.98s to place 2nd behind Erayokan.
If that run was good and doubts still hovered, the following day, he showed that he was ready to cap off his good improvement with brilliance. He really did not punch above his weight, sticking to a good and all balanced race plan as he brushed off tough opposition from 2-time National Champion, Samson Nathaniel to reach the line in 3rd place with a time of 47.03s, behind Erayokan who successfully defended his NSF title from 2012, and Shedrack Akpeki, a first time NSF Medallist just like Ojeli.
His excitement after winning the medal was palpable:
In his fit of surprise, he said, “I can’t believe I won a medal here, I only came here to run a PB and now, I can see the results.”
Ojeli believes so much in the work of his coach, and is ready to take on new heights in 2019, which when he was asked about, he said: “I want to qualify for the All-African Games, the World Athletics Championships and possibly break 46s.”
It’s certainly an experience he can hold on to handily. It’s some easy and good going for the young man who recently was awarded a 1-year Sponsorship from Shell Nigeria Exploration & Production Company (SNEPCo). Juggled together, 2018 was a great season that ended on a high note, and Ojeli has established himself as a quarter-miler who could well break into Nigeria’s Senior Team in 2019!