In spite of the heavy downpour in Benin City yesterday, avid athletics enthusiasts from all corners of the city flocked to the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium to catch a glimpse of renowned world champion Tobiloba Amusan, silver medalist Ese Brume, and other foreign-based athletes who had just arrived for the national trials.
The count of foreign-based athletes rose to 16 as Amusan, fresh off her victory in the 100m hurdles at the Diamond League in Sweden, made her way to Benin City.
Due to the inclement weather, her appearance at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium was delayed, but the news of her arrival had already spread across town. Finally, at around 4:00 p.m., Amusan, Brume, and their fellow foreign-based athletes took to the tracks, eliciting thunderous applause from the hundreds of fans in the stands.
Today, over 160 athletes, including both local and foreign stars from the United States and Europe, will compete at the stadium to secure spots on Nigeria’s team for the 19th World Athletics Championships in Budapest. The national trials, which started yesterday, will conclude on July 7.
Last year, the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium hosted the trials for both the World Championships in Oregon and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.
In other news, the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) has confirmed that Bamidele Emmanuel, the reigning NCAA 400m champion, will not be representing the country at the upcoming World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
Despite his impressive performance at the Diamond League in Stockholm, where he finished second, the AFN has decided not to include him in their plans for the championship.
Bamidele, who has not competed for Nigeria at any international event, remains registered as a Nigerian athlete with World Athletics.
According to an AFN official, the federation respects Bamidele’s desire to represent another country and does not wish to interfere with his decision.
It was rumored that he was denied a change of allegiance by World Athletics in 2018 due to their stringent rules on country switches. Since then, he had seemingly not considered running for Nigeria.
However, his recent comments after the race in Stockholm suggest that he may be contemplating a change of allegiance to Bahrain or reconsidering his stance on competing for Nigeria.
Bamidele intends to participate in another Diamond League event before focusing on the World Championships in Budapest.