The Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna will be a beehive of athletics activities when the best of Nigerian athlete’s home and abroad, begin their quest for national glory at the All-Nigeria Athletics Championship, from July 25th – 27th.
Being the most prestigious track and field competition in the country, athletes will compete for the bragging rights of being called National Champions, and most importantly to secure a spot for the forthcoming African Games and World Championships.
This is because the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) has declared it a double standard championship, serving as both the All Nigeria and trials for the Continental and World showpiece.
Furthermore, only athletes that have met the qualifying standards and finish in the top 3 of their individual events, will have secured spots to represent the country.
Based on the competitiveness of each event, here’s a preview on the 100m and athletes leading the pack to vie for podium placements.
In every Athletics Championship, the 100m always tops the list of the most anticipated events so this event in Kaduna, won’t be an exception.
In fact, it is the star event because it’s the most competitive having at least five sprinters in line for the tag of being Nigeria’s fastest man, with three already surpassing the world championships standard.
Top on the list is the fastest in the event this year, Divine Oduduru who has a Personal Best (PB) of 9.86s and the only one that has gone below the 10s mark this season.
His closest challenger is former NCAA mate, Raymond Ekevwo having the second fastest time of 10.02s. However, with Ekevwo not listed in the start list by AFN, which concludes he won’t be competing, Oduduru’s next toughest challenger will be Usheoritse Itsekiri, with a PB of 10.07s.
Incidentally, Itsekiri is the last to win a national title in this event, when he became the 2018 National Sports Festival (NSF) Champion, in a then PB of 10.27s.
Seye Ogunlewe, sits fourth on the list with a PB of 10.11s. Officially, he’s the defending champion after his 2017 victory and with the 2018 edition being cancelled. However, his name is also missing on the start list which gives doubts on his availability in Kaduna.
And finally the youngest in the field, Enoch Adegoke who ran his PB of 10.15s just last weekend at the Cameroon Grand Prix, though he has gone faster this season after winning the MoC Grand Prix in 10.12s, but the time was not ratified by the IAAF which gives doubts on its validity.
Other athletes such as Ogho Egwero (10.22s), Alaba Akintola (10.35s), Emmanuel Arowolo (10.37s) and Jerry Jakpa (10.40s), are also top challengers and cannot be written off for a surprising upset.
With the exclusion of Ekevwo and probably Ogunlewe, while Oduduru is still a major doubt though he’s on the start list, it’s an open race for the winner and the two remaining podium positions.
Just like the men’s category, the competitiveness in the women’s category is a tough call as well.
As expected, if track queen Blessing Okagbare features on the starting line-up, she’ll be the outright favourite for the title having a Season’s Best (SB) of 11.04s, and the only Nigerian female athlete to have qualified for Doha.
Aniekeme Alphonsus, is in a distant second with a PB of 11.30s, but with her name excluded from the start list, this also means she’s out.
Notwithstanding, Rosemary Chukwuma has always proven to be a championship runner and will be the next big favourite for her first senior national title, having a SB of 11.44s.
She’ll rekindle her rivalry with Joy Udo-Gabriel, who has a SB of 11.52s and also has a way of delivering when it matters most.
Both ladies will definitely aim to secure two of the top 3 spots, ahead of other major contenders such as Mercy Ntia-Obong (11.59s), Praise Idamadudu (11.59s), US based Cecilia Francis (11.62s) and resurgent Blessing Ogundiran (11.64s).
Whatever happens when this event kicks off on Thursday morning, one thing is sure that the eventual winner would have given her best on the track and rightfully earned the tag to be called Nigeria’s fastest woman.