After so many uncertainties clouding the hosting of the 2018 All Nigeria Athletics Championships, due to the fact that the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) rescheduled the date of the Championship on few occasions, it’ll finally take centre stage from Saturday, July 7th – 9th.
This year’s edition is of utmost significance, not just because it’ll determine the country’s next set of Track & Field Champions, but because it’ll be used as selection of athletes that’ll don the country’s colours at the African Championships in Asaba, Delta State come August.
When hostilities kick off at the Main Bowl National Stadium, Abuja on Saturday morning, it’ll be a showcase of not just entertainment but the best Nigerian athletes have to offer. For these reasons, we’ve carefully selected five things Athletics fans should look out for at the National showpiece.
5. Will AFN Be Able To Redeem Themselves?
The present board of the AFN, is one surrounded with so many controversies since resuming office in June 2017, with the most recent of such controversies being releasing a somewhat ‘unattainable’ events standards for foreign based athletes, if they’re to get a refund of their flight tickets.
While the federation through some of its members argued that the purpose of releasing the high standards asides flight ticket refund, was also to motivate the athletes to give their best like their counterparts around the world, most pundits thought otherwise that’ll only discourage those athletes from coming thereby degrading the quality of the competition.
This of course is true, as one of the responsibilities of the AFN is to create a world class meet where the athletes can have a healthy competition in all ramifications.
But with the controversial foot the federation first took concerning the Championship, it’s left to be seen if they’ll redeem themselves by providing a near perfect athletics meet that’ll match up to world class standard; one which has so much eluded athletes and fans as a whole within the country in over a year.
4. Birth of Nigeria’s Next Generation of Athletes
Over the years, the National Championships has produced at least one athlete that’ll go on to dominate his/her event within the country for several more years.
This year won’t be an exception, as the just concluded Commonwealth Games in Australia, gave a glimpse of what to expect, with Nigeria Athletics presenting more debutants and young athletes than other sports federations. In fact, two of these junior athletes eventually made up the relay quartet that won women’s 4x100m Bronze medal.
With the spotlight being on the senior and more established athletes to produce a spark, one cannot take away a few upsets that some of these young athletes may create, which of course will be one of the highlights at the Championship.
3. Athletes Preparedness for African Championships
Nigeria is the host country for the 2018 African Athletics Championships, with Asaba being the host city. Weeks back, two of the Continents track and field power houses (South Africa and Kenya) released their strong team for the Championship, putting a huge pressure on Nigeria.
As stated earlier, the AFN will use All Nigeria as trials for selection of athletes that’ll do the country proud in Delta State, underlining the importance of finishing in the top three.
Therefore, the performances of the athletes in Abuja, will go a long way in determining how well our athletes will perform at the Continental Championship, and perhaps give insights if they can lead the medal’s table at the end of the five-day competition in Asaba.
2. Who’ll Win The Bragging Rights?
All Nigeria Championships is an avenue for the country’s best athletes both home and abroad to compete against each other, among so many reasons but also for bragging rights on who’s better and whether there’s actually much difference between the training qualities here and abroad.
While the federation may have discouraged some of these foreign athletes from coming, due to the conditions of refund of flight tickets money, some may still make their way down due to the prospects of not losing out on competing at the African Championships.
This will make room of still having important clashes in some events, and probably create major upsets and surprise wins where not expected.
The expectations are high coupled with the excitement of waiting to see who’ll be crowned new National Champions, but how many of these will be owned by home and foreign based athletes, is one spectators and fans should salivate about.
1. Who’ll Be Crowned Nigeria’s Fastest Man or Woman
The 100m event is always the highlight of any major Championship, as it gives the winner the accolade of being called the fastest man/woman.
Currently in Nigeria, Seye Ogunlewe enjoys the sole right of being called Nigeria’s fastest man, as he has won the 100m title in three consecutive years, which brings the question if he can make it a fourth title in Abuja?
However, he has no fewer than 3 athletes who can challenge him for this accolade, top on the list being newly crowned 200m NCAA Champion and 100m Nigerian leader with 10.10s, Divine Oduduru. If Oduduru decides to show up and compete in the 100m, then we may just witness the talented sprinter add the National title to his already long list of titles this year.
Meanwhile, Ogunlewe and Oduduru won’t have it easy to the finish line, knowing fully well that Ogho Oghene-Egwero (10.19s) and new sprints sensation Enoch Adegoke (10.19s), have the qualities to turn things around.
Egwero, is a former National Champion and cannot be written off, while Adegoke who’s now known of creating major upsets when it matters most, may just spring up the surprise performance of the Championship.
In the women’s category and in the absence of Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor, it’s going to be an open race on who has the heart and mental toughness to get to the finish line first.
Mercy Ntia-Obong, has rediscovered her lost form and now in the best shape of her life, having clocked the fastest time of 11.25s under any wind conditions by a female athlete within the country this year.
In the absence of reigning Champion Aniekeme Alphonsus (11.25s) to defend her title, Ntia-Obong’s stiffest competitors will be in junior sensations Joy Udo-Gabriel, Blessing Ogundiran and Rosemary Chukwuma.
No matter what happens and whoever wins the event in both categories, he/she will have the privilege of being called Nigeria’s fastest man or woman for the next one year.