This week, Deji Ogeyingbo is in Benin, Nigeria, to cover the Nigerian Athletics Championships for RunBlogRun. This is his first in a series from Benin. My apologies on the delays on this post, as I have been caught in travel nightmares in the U.S.
Five things to look forward to at the Nigerian Championships
Just over one year after Nigeria selected a team to represent her at the World Championships in Eugene, with the country ending up winning its first Gold medal since the inception of the Championship in Finland in 1983, the Nigerian trials will get underway in the ancient city of Benin as more athletes look to punch their tickets to Budapest.
World Champion in the women’s 100m Hurdles Tobi Amusan and World Silver medalist in the Long Jump Ese Brume had both qualified since last year, but a host of US College athletes have qualified in a host of events.
Warming up for the Nigerian Champs, photo by Deji Ogeyingbo
A total of 24 athletes were in Eugene last year, and the Athletics Federation for Nigeria (AFN) has ensured they put up the right resources to ensure the number increases this year.
Quite simply, this year’s trials might not be glittering with stars; regardless, the Samuel Ogbemudia stadium will beam for the second year after hosting the championships for the first time last year.
Underwhelming attendance by the foreign-based athletes
A large chunk of the foreign-based athletes meant to be at the National Championships have either qualified for the World Championships in Budapest or feel no need to come to Nigeria to participate in the trials. It’s a bad precedent the federation has set for the last few years, and the chicken has come home to roost.
A few of the collegiate athletes like Favour Ofili and Rosemary Chukwuma have genuine visa issues, but a large gob of them have just opted not to come. It’s sad, but that’s the reality. A sizable amount of them have qualified for the relays too. The mixed 4x100m has qualified via designated competition, and the women’s 4x100m, led by Ofili too, from their 4th place finish in Eugene last year.
Overall, there won’t be a barrage of superstar names that have lit up the US and Europe so far this year, and it’s something that needs to change soon.
World Record Holder Tobi Amusan to race in Nigeria for the first time
It’s been almost twelve months since Tobi Amusan broke the world record in the women’s 100mH, and she hasn’t competed in front of her home fans. Although she has been in Nigeria since then, it was mainly for sponsorship drives and from an athlete’s brand visibility perspective.
Tobi Amusan, 2022 Nigerian Champs, by Deji Ogeyingbo
Since then, she has become the Diamond League Champion and shot to the global list of Athletics superstars. Her season hasn’t been going smooth sailing so far, with a couple of below-par results. Still, her recent races in Ostrava, Lausanne, and Oslo have seen her race to a season’s best of 12.47s, slightly behind Olympic Champion Jasmine Camacho-Quinn.
This will be the third time Amusan will be competing at the Nigerian Championships, having competed at the Olympic Trials in 2021 and the world championship trials in 2022. The Nigerian audience will surely be in awe of her when she graces the track at the Samuel Ogbemudia stadium.
Men’s 4x100m seek qualification at the CAA Region II in Togo.
On paper, Nigeria’s men’s 4x100m team has arguably the best individual quartet in the world this year, with the exception of USA and Jamaica. Godson Brume (9.90), Udodi Onwuzurike (9.92), Favour Ashe (9.96s), and Usheoritse Itsekiri (10.02) have some of the best individual times of any sprinter over the 100m this year.
But as is common knowledge, the relays are way beyond individual times. Cohesion and organization are more important, so Team Nigeria’s men’s 4x100m Relay team finds itself sitting in 20th, four places outside the qualifying zone for the world championships.
The team last ran together at the commonwealth games when they ran 38.81s to place third. Since then, teams have usurped them. This has mitigated the team to assemble the best quartet to fly out to Togo and run the relays in order to meet the qualifying standard.
Trinidad and Tobago currently occupy the sixteenth spot with a 38.70s best. The team can surely meet it if they get their axe right.
Sade Olatoye races against time to qualify for the World Championships
The African Champion in the women’s Hammer Throw faces a race against time to qualify for the world championships this year. Although she has a bye as the African Champion, as indicated in the ROAD TO BUDAPEST PAGE, primarily, she would hope to get past the 70m mark for the first time in her career.
Her current Personal Best is 69.89m from 2021, and although she has thrown 69.33m already this season, she will hope to guarantee an automatic spot in Budapest. Her colleagues on the field, Chukwuebuka Enekwechi Chioma Onyekwere and, have all qualified in the Shot Put and Triple Jump, respectively.
Ruth Usoro seeking yet another double title
Ruth Usoro is one of those few athletes that combine the Triple Jump with the Long Jump. The Nigerian was very adept at mixing and matching them that. She qualified for both at last year’s World.
Warming Up, photo by Deji Ogeyingbo
So far, the Texas Tech Graduate has qualified in the Long Jump by virtue of her 6.87m jump in Lubbock in January of this year. Here in Benin, she will be competing in both events as she aims to meet the qualifying standard of the world championships in the Triple Jump.