BY IHUNANYA OKOYE
The Delta state government led by the Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa has erected a befitting stadium, tagged world class and worth millions of naira to host the 2018 African Athletics Championship (CAA).
Aside from the huge money spent on renovating the stadium, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa also organized a fund raising dinner to raise at least 4 billion naira that will help out in general logistics during the championship.
According to sources,the target of the Delta state Governor in collaboration with the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) in erecting the edifice christened Stephen Keshi stadium and going extra mile to source for funds is to host the best ever championship. But, the question Nigerians are asking is if the preparation was extended to the athletes? This brings us to another question of Nigeria hosting to win or not to win?
It is highly commendable that the Delta state government has lifted the face of Nigeria to the world by putting in place a beautiful stadium but hat of the athletes; did they get the best preparation for the championship?
Just few weeks ago, reports emerged that the country’s athletes embarked on protests citing various issues and thereafter refused to undergo trials in Abuja.
Another fact emerged from former national champion, Olusoji Fasuba who stated that Nigeria did not field enough athletes to win the championship.
According to him, 95 Athletes, including Blessing Okagbare, Yinka Ajayi, Patience George, Tobi, Amusan, Divine Oduduru and Seye Ogunlewe were named by the Athletics Federation, but Fasuba insists the Country will not have the strength in numbers as any host should.
Now this statement by Fasuba is worrisome as well as other challenges which pose as obstacles to the quest of Nigeria winning the championship.
It is no longer a surprise that sports (excluding football ) in Nigeria has suffered negligence but the most surprising part is that the said negligence which is now an epidemic has eaten deep into the system, leaving a huge mark behind.
Some of the marks left behind is the inability of Nigerian athletes to excel in major competitions and the inability of the Sports Ministry, sports federation president and coaches to groom young athletes to stardom.
Having said that, it is however imperative for the AFN to work out a strategy, a plan B that will help Nigeria triumph at the Asaba 2018 CAA. Aside from the ecomomic boost a country enjoys from hosting a competition; it is also important that the country excels in the competition proper.
Meanwhile,a look at the history of the CAA shows that Nigeria have dominnated the ompetition since its inception in 1979. Nigeria have won the medals table 8 times , finished 2nd and 3rd on the log 5 and 3 times respectively in 16 outings. Nigeria won the medals table of the CAA in the years: 1979, 1985, 1988,1989 ( as hosts), 1990, 1996, 1998 and 2012. However, South Africa have won the last two editions in 2014 and 2016
Aside from finishing top on the medals table 8 times , Nigeria have amassed the most medals, winning a total of 348 medals in the championship followed by Kenya and South Africa who have 363 and 308 medals respectively. ( NB: Nigeria have the most gold)
Among the athletes who are expected to shine at the CAA for Nigeria are Blessing Okagabare, Joy Udo-Gabriel, Mercy Ntia-Obong in the 100m while those for 200m include Blessing Okagbare, Praise Idamadudu and Rosemary Chukwuma.
The female quarter-milers are Yinka Ajayi, Patience Okon-George, Emerald Egwim, while Abike Egbeniyi will be the only athlete representing the country in the 800m.
In the 100m Hurdles are Oluwatobiloba Amusan, Grace Ayemoba and Favour Efe, while 400m Hurdles will feature Glory Nathaniel and Rita Ossai with Fadekemi Olude set to compete in the 20km race walk.
Ese Brume, Precious Okoronkwo and Mercy Abire are listed for the long jump event, the Triple Jump will feature Blessing Ibrahim and Grace Anigbata.
For the field event, the trio of Nkechi Chime, Chinwe Okoro and Chioma Onyekwere will compete in the discus throw.
Queen Obisesan will compete in the Hammer Throw, while Kelechi Nwanaga is for the Javelin event.
In the 4x100m are Blessing Okagabare, Joy Udo-Gabriel, Mercy Ntia-Obong, Rosemary Chukwuma, Blessing Ogundiran and Oluwatobiloba Amusan.
But Nigerians should be wary of the Ivorian duo of Marie-Jose Ta Lou and Muriel Ahoure. Not forgetting Caster Semenya of South Africa.