If you’ve been following my What Next series, you’ll realize by now my preference on choosing to be an anti-Churchillian talent at making predictions before the event, is proving it’s accuracy than being a mere fallacy.
I’ll refresh your memory by taking you back to Series I, where I predicted there’ll be a new Nigeria’s fastest man from my ‘Fantastic Five’. This became true when Usheoritse Itsekiri, emerged new National Champion in Kaduna.
Thereafter I was more straight forward in Series II, affirming the ‘Sub-10s is Visible’. Few weeks after the publication, Divine Oduduru became the country’s first 9s runner in over a decade closing his NCAA career with a Personal Best (PB) of 9.86s.
Now with this article, I’m putting my money where my mouth is once again by saying the next phase for Nigeria’s men’s 100m, is the influx of the most coveted prize in a Championship – MEDALS.
The last time Nigeria won a men’s 100m medal at an international competition, was by Ogho Egwero when he delivered Silver at 2015 All African Games.
Since then, no sprinter came close to doing this except Seye Ogunlewe, when he finished 4th and 5th at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and African Championships respectively.
This is set to change with no less than five athletes giving that hope and co-incidentally the African Games in Rabat, the first point of call.
These athletes have changed the narrative on how Nigerian male sprinters are seen in world athletics, with many pundits now suggesting the nation as the destination in producing Africa’s next speedsters including being potential relay medalists at the World Championships in Doha.
Starting with the leader of the pack, Oduduru’s 9.86s is the fastest in the continent and No.2 on the world list. Barring unforeseen circumstances, he’s the standout favourite for the Gold medal except he wishes to opt-out and focus on the 200m instead.
With the exemption of African Champion, Akani Simbine by South Africa, his closest competitor to getting this top prize will be in Cote D’Ivoire’s Arthur Cisse, with a fast 9.93s this season and has been very active in the European circuit.
Joining Oduduru as a potential medalist for Nigeria is Raymond Ekevwo, who’s Nigeria’s second fastest and No.6 on the African list with his 10.02s. He’s been out of action since the NCAA Championships in June, which gives doubts on his form.
Notwithstanding, Ekevwo is known to show up when ready and springs surprises when not expecting. Since he has made the trip to Rabat, then he’s got to be in that shape that can win his first senior international medal since he left for studies in the US in 2017.
Third on the list and with big chances of at least getting a Bronze medal is newly crowned Nigeria’s fastest man, Itsekiri. The Sapele born speedster is clearly leading the poll as Nigeria’s breakout male athlete of the season.
Earlier in the season, he moved to Germany on a European tour to fine-tune his preparations for the year. This definitely paid off as he defeated some 100m heavyweights in his meets including Cisse, with his highlight being when he ran a PB of 10.07s to surpass the world championships qualifying mark.
Itsekiri will face a huge test in Rabat, going up against not only his Nigerian counterparts but the South Africans and Ivorians as well.
He has the mental strength to shine at major championships. If he steps on the track with this confidence again, then I guarantee him smiling home and to Doha with his first continental individual medal for the country.
Ogunlewe and Enoch Adegoke, occupy my final bets on a possibility of going all out and creating major upsets in Morocco.
The former has a lot to prove having gone so close in attaining this at his 2018 major championships. He seems to be in better form this year, running his fastest time since 2015, when he finished 3rd behind Itsekiri at a meet in Germany, clocking a PB of 10.11s.
His target will be to upset the top seeds and prove everyone wrong by getting his first podium placement, as well as hitting the world championships standard.
Finally, Adegoke though the youngest of all five has the potentials to increase his speed pedal having run the fastest and most consistent times on average by a Nigerian, behind Oduduru.
He is a proven championship runner when not nursing an injury and having come so close on several occasions to get the Doha qualifying mark of 10.10s with no avail, perhaps he may get to do this in Rabat.
His PB of 10.12s is fifth fastest in the country, but there’s no denying he can go lower than that as well as fueling his ambitions of medaling. And knowing the Moroccan city is his final meet to achieve this, the African Junior Champion will give everything in making this a reality.
These sprinters are the best we’ve had since the days of Olusoji Fasuba and Francis Obikwelu. So when Athletics begins at the 2019 African Games, I’ll be unapologetically sure that Nigeria, will have at least a medalist from any of these five.
NOTE: As at writing this, the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) has not ascertained the specific trio that’ll be donning the country’s colours in this event. But one thing I can confirm is the selections will be made from the mentioned athletes above.