The just concluded National Youth Games for U15’s at the University of Ilorin sports complex, proved to be a good hunting ground to explore the immense Athletics potentials at grass-root level, as several youngsters were discovered expected to lead a new generation of athletes that’ll stun the world at global championships years from now.
One of such discoveries was 14yr old Nse Uko Imeobong, who produced fast times worthy of sustain-ably matching other world leading times in her age group.
The Akwa Ibom state youngster first caught the attention of the crowd when she comfortably won her 400m semis in 57.27secs, before coming back later in the evening to win her 200m semis in 25.32secs.
Moments after her 200m race, Imeobong was back to prove she was in a class of her own, racing to the 400m title in a jaw dropping time of 55.73secs, with Juliana Abayomi of Ogun State also superbly dropping 56.43secs to finish 2nd.
These times are the fastest produced by Nigeria U-15 quatermilers in recent years, since Ebelechukwu now Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain left the shores of this country.
Not done with her outstanding performances, Imeobong once again to the amazement of the crowd ran a tactical swift race to claim the 200m Gold in a mind blowing 24.94secs, becoming only athlete to go under 56 & 25secs thereby astonishingly sealing her name as one of the major sprints discoveries at the games.
Another outstanding performer showcased in Ilorin was Delta state born Praise Oforku, who raced to the 100m Gold medal and only took the speed prowess of Imeobong to out sprint her in the 200m.
Oforku won the 100m in a brilliant 12.08secs, a time that can also be bragged at world level for the U-15 category. In the 200m, she clocked a reasonably fast 25.31secs for the Silver medal ahead of teammate Success Umukoro with 25.75secs, who added to her 100m Silver medal.
The boy’s category was not short of talents as well, showcasing Lagos born Olaolu Jason Olatunde, winning the 100m final in 11.14secs far ahead of Delta’s Goodness Ireda in 11.73secs.
Olatunde who had already made his talent known, came back to clock the fastest time of 23.56secs in the 200m Heats. However, it was Ireda that smiled home with the 200m crown winning it in 23.70secs, thereby adding his second Gold medal on the day after his High Jump victory (1.60m).
In the 400m, Habib Salisu of Kaduna state was the star crossing the finish line in 52.19secs, to win his state’s first Gold medal and adding to his high jump Silver (1.60m), both being his state’s first medals in the history of the Games.
The field event saw the excellence of Delta’s Peace Ewa, emerge victorious in Girl’s High Jump with descent height of 1.55m, while Emmanuel Ajenu leapt far ahead his peers to win the Long Jump in 5.69m.
Para-athletes were not left out of the activities, producing Chukwuebuka Orji who won the Boy’s T46 final in 12.06secs, while Ability Matthew Udo won the girl’s category in 14.23secs
At the end of the Games which featured all sports, Delta state were overall champions for the second consecutive time having 67 medals (27 Gold, 24 Silver and 16 Bronze). Lagos making a reappearance after being out for two years finished second with 60 medals (23 Gold, 15 Silver and 22 Bronze), while Bayelsa was third with 34 medals (11 Gold, 7 Silver and 16 Bronze).
These young sensations have brilliantly proven they’re future World and Olympic Champions in the making if well nurtured with the right support here in the country, so we won’t have reasons to write sad tales of them donning the colours of the oil rich countries such as Bahrain and Qatar in future.