Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, says the future of the sport of track and field is bright in Nigeria following another impressive display by the country’s athletes, both at home and abroad.
Johnson Nnamani, Egbuchilem Raphael Chimezie, Ezekiel Nathaniel, Favour Ofili, Rosemary Chukwuma, Alaba Akintola and Favour Ashe, among others, displayed standout performances at the 3rd AFN All Comers in Abuja and the Collegiate Circuit in the USA.
Teenagers Nnamani and Egbuchilem both improved on their Personal Best at the Abuja Meet while Ezekiel broke Henry Amike’s 35-year-old 400m hurdles Nigeria record.
Ofili was simply unstoppable as she successfully completed a sprint double, running 10.93s in the 100m and 22.04s in the 200m.
Ashe and Akintola set new Personal Best times in the 100m, both running 10.04s while Chukwuma ran a wind-aided 10.88s to place third in the 100m before scorching to a wind-legal 22.33s finish in the half lap.
World U20 200m and 400m champions, Udodi Onwuzurike and Imaobong Nse Uko, also set new lifetime best with the former running 20.09s in the half lap event while the latter raced to a new 51.24s best in the 400m.
“The performances by our athletes show the depth of talents we have in Nigeria. I am particularly pleased that majority of the athletes left Nigeria between 2020 and 2021 and their incredible rise to world class standards is a testimony that we have the talents here,” said the Sports Minister.
Continuing, Dare is convinced investments in our home-based stars will always produce results and congratulates the AFN for providing competition for the athletes.
“I was at the AFN All Comers in Abuja on Thursday and Friday and witnessed how our athletes, especially the junior ones, have been improving, setting new lifetime bests.
“Johnson Nnamani is only 19 and was at the World U20 Championship last year in Nairobi, Kenya. He ran a new personal best of 46.23s in Abuja. I was told he ran 46.9 seconds last year and first improved to 46.66s in Lagos last month.
“This is a massive leap in performance, the kind our athletes are also displaying in the USA,” added the Minister.
Dare is particularly pleased with Ezekiel who ran 48.42s to break the 48.50s Henry Amike ran in Rome in 1987 to set a new Nigeria record.
“I have been following the performances of our athletes, especially the junior ones that achieved unprecedented feats at the Nairobi World U20 Championship last year and saw how Ezekiel improved from a 51 seconds runner to a sub 49 seconds athlete. Now, he has broken a 35-year-old national record,” said Dare who recalls some of the athletes were in the Sports Ministry’s adopt an athlete programme.
“This shows with the right investment, we can achieve so much. We all saw how Enoch Adegoke and Grace Nwokocha defied the odds to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics as home-based athletes.”
The Sports Minister says the Ministry will always encourage and support federations who don’t rely only on athletes born and bred abroad to achieve success for the country.
“While we celebrate these victories, have we asked how it has impacted on the development of the sport locally? President Muhammadu Buhari is an advocate of us eating what we grow, wearing what we produce and use talents we develop and nurture at home. We in the Sports Ministry will not deviate from this, doing otherwise will be counter-productive,” he concluded.