In 2022, Nigerian athletes excelled across a range of events and international championships, starting from the African Senior Championships to the World Athletics Championships, Commonwealth Games and even the World U-20 Championships in Cali, putting up remarkable displays at every showing.
In our latest feature, we take a look at our best Nigerian male athletes in this two-part series through the 2022 season, starting off now with Part 1.
10. Isaac Odugbesan
Out in flying form in the 2021/22 indoor season, Isaac Odugbesan had his best Track & Field year undoubtedly. He dominated the indoor circuit for his conference, winning every meet that led up to the NCAA Indoor Championships including the SEC Indoor title with a Personal Best (PB) of 20.71m. The only miss on his resume was the NCAA Indoor title where he could only manage a 7th place finish.
However, he made up for this outdoors, opening up on a winning note at the Joe Walker Invitational in April and then throwing an outdoor PB of 20.66m at the Crimson Tide Invitational a fortnight afterwards. Following through with a 3rd place finish at the SEC Championships, he landed a massive PB of 20.85m, earning a thorough win at the NCAA East Preliminary and making him the second best Nigerian in the event in 2022.
Every year of the past four that Isaac Odugbesan competed as an athlete in the NCAA, he went one better than he did the previous year and in 2022, he did not fall short as he for the first time not only qualified for the NCAA finals, but he also finished on top of the podium, throwing 20.48m to take 3rd in the men’s Shot Put for his school, University of Alabama – their best finish in the event since 1980!
9. Emmanuel Ojeli
For his season opener, Emmanuel Ojeli was first on the Nigerian team to the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade. Ojeli who was on all Nigerian senior teams in 2022 except one, ran for the first time indoors and in May, posted a Season’s Best (SB) of 46.23s at the Castiglione International Meeting in Grosseto, Italy.
He was a part of the men’s 4x400m quartet that ran at the 22nd African Championships in Mauritius, teaming up with Johnson Nnamani, Chidi Okezie and Adeyemi Sikiru to win Bronze in 3:07.05, maintaining their position from Asaba 2018. Prior to that, he had won a Silver on Day 2 of the Championships, being a member of the mixed 4x400m that clocked 3:22.38 behind Botswana.
Coming down in the distance, the versatile sprinter was selected to run the 200m at the Commonwealth Games where he made it to the semifinal and went on to run as a member of the men’s 4x400m quartet that placed 6th in the final at the Games.
8. Samson Nathaniel
Over the last few years, one of the biggest figures in sprinting on the home turf has been Samson Nathaniel. Since his breakthrough in 2015, he has consistently churned out noteworthy performances, enough to make him a part of the cream of the crop of Nigerian male sprinting.
Not being a stranger to indoor racing, he kicked off his 2022 campaign as a member of Team Nigeria at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade, running the men’s 4x400m where he and his teammates placed 4th in their heat.
Outdoors, he won all his races on the circuit, producing an SB of 46.05s before he was selected to compete at the African Athletics Championships in Mauritius. He advanced comfortably out of his qualifying heat and finished as a semifinalist at the Games.
Just over two weeks after that performance, he ran a 45.99s SB at the Nigerian Athletics Championships in Benin and also helped the men’s 4x400m to an SB of 3:03.95, a time that remained their fastest for the year. Not long after this, he was on the Nigerian team to the World Championships in Oregon and a part of the mixed 4x400m relay pool.
Teaming up with Patience Okon-George, Dubem Amene and Imaobong Nse Uko, he put up a spirited display to help the team book a place in their first ever final of the mixed 4x400m at the World Championships in Oregon, storming to a Season’s Best (SB) of 3:14.59 and thereby making Nigeria the first ever African country to make the final of the event in World Championships history.
While the team managed 6th in the final, he was selected to run at the Commonwealth Games, this time in the individual 400m, and he made it all the way to the semifinal and the men’s 4x400m where the team finished 7th in the final.
Nathaniel ended the year on a high as a member of Team Delta at the National Sports Festival (NSF). He had previously competed the at the NSF on two different occasions, finishing just out of the medals both times in 4th but he wasn’t to be denied the third time.
He went out with intent and held his own well to strike GOLD in 46.08s, emerging a clear winner in the end. He also won GOLD in the mixed 4x400m event in Asaba.
7. Prosper Chinecherem
When going over Nigeria’s young history in the men’s Javelin, there are some names that wouldn’t go unmentioned and one of them is Prosper Chinecherem. The burgeoning athlete first announced himself to the world at the World U-20 Championships in Nairobi where he won Bronze in the event.
Soon after his exploits at the World Juniors, it was officially announced that he would be joining Baylor as a freshman for the 2022 season where he was exposed to better training conditions and facilities.
In his NCAA debut at the Texas Relays, he threw a PB and new School Record of 78.42m, breaking the previous marker that stood since 2011. At the time, it was an NCAA Lead.
At the Michael Johnson Invitational in Waco, Texas, he took it up a notch higher, landing a massive PB of 81.07m to take the win! He was just one millimetre away from the National Record (NR) and therefore became only the 2nd Nigerian man ever to throw past 80m in the event.
With his trajectory in the event, it was evident that it was only a matter of time before he claimed the record for himself. He was dominant on the collegiate scene, so much that he won all his lead-up meets and in May at the NCAA West Preliminary, he sent his implement out to an astonishing NR of 81.22m!
He broke Pius Bazighe’s previous NR set in 1999, improving it by 14cm and like his predecessor, he now had two throws past the 80 metres mark.
A surprising miss was the NCAA Championships in Oregon where he could only manage 5th place with 78.61m, but an amazing performance for a freshman regardless. He successfully defended his National title and represented Nigeria at the Commonwealth Games in August, finishing 9th.
6. Mike Edwards
Ranked in sixth place on our Toplist for the best Nigerian male athletes in 2022 is Mike Edwards, currently the best high jumper in the nation.
Despite his season kicking off late in June at the BIGish Jumps & Throws Fest in Bedford where he cleared an SB of 2.13m, he went on to represent Nigeria at the African Senior Athletics Championships in Mauritius, throwing up a slice of history as he became the first Nigerian man to win an African Championships medal in the men’s High Jump since the 1996 edition in Yaounde when National Record (NR) holder, Anthony Idiata, won Silver with a distance of 2.16m.
Edwards claimed his first ever medal – a Silver – for Nigeria, with a clearance of 2.15m, bringing his second appearance at the African Championships to a fitting end. He narrowly lost GOLD to Algeria’s Hichem Bouhanoune on countback, with South Africa’s Mpho Links settling for Bronze, also with the same mark of 2.15m.
He then claimed a second successive national title in his event at the Nigerian World Championships/Commonwealth Games Trials in Benin, clearing an SB of 2.20m to win the GOLD medal, 5cm better than the distance he recorded in Mauritius.
He closed out his 2022 season at the Commonwealth Games, placing 6th in the men’s High Jump with a best clearance of 2.19m.