Honourable Minister of Youth and Sports Development Sunday Dare is happy with the early season form of some Nigerian athletes, mostly the student-athletes participating in collegiate competitions and a few others based at home.
Favour Ofili, Rosemary Chukwuma, Grace Nwokocha, Tobi Amusan, Udodi Onwuzurike, Ezekiel Nathaniel, Raymond Ekevwo, Alaba Akintola, Favour Ashe, Chinecherem Nnamdi and Dubem Amene are some of the Nigerians athletes abroad that have posted impressive times and marks so far this season.
Ofili ran a new national record of 21.96s in the 200m to win the Tom Jones Memorial Classic 2022, becoming the first Nigerian woman and collegiate athlete ever to run sub 22 seconds over the distance.
The 19 year old is the top ranked athlete in the event in the world so far this year and the only one to run inside 22 seconds.
Indoors, Ofili is also the only Nigerian woman ever to run a sub 23 seconds over the 200m distance.
She is also ranked the eighth fastest woman so far in the world over the 100m distance after improving her personal best to 11.00 seconds a forthnight ago.
Ofili’s compatriots Rosemary Chukwuma with a personal best of 11.05 seconds and Grace Nwokocha with a season’s best of 11.13 seconds in the 100 metres are also highly rated this year.
Tobi Amusan is ranked the fastest African athlete in the 100m hurdles so far this year and holds a personal season’s best of 12.61 seconds.
For the men, Udodi Onwuzurike is the 11th fastest man in the world so far this year following his impressive 10.07 seconds performance in the blue ribband event last month while Raymond Ekevro, the reigning African Games 100m champion is returning to reckoning after an injury plaughed 2021. The 23 year old ran 10.11 seconds in the event over the weekend at Walnut, California.
Akintola (10.09s), Ashe (10.11s) and Godson Oke Oghenebrume (10.12s) also posted personal bests in the 100m event just last weekend.
In the 400m hurdles, Ezekiel Nathaniel is looking to become the first Nigerian in seven years and the fourth in the history of the event to run a sub 49 seconds after posting an impressive 49.11 seconds towards the end of last month.
He is currently ranked the second-fastest in the world this year. Nathaniel has also done 46.20s in the 400m flat, second in the Nigerian ranking so far this year to Dubem Amene who holds a personal best of 46.04s achieved in February.
World Athletics U20 bronze medallist in the Javelin throw, Chinecherem Nnamdi is also on fire and his big 78.42m new personal best mark which he threw last month in Texas is already threatening the 81.08m National record set by Pius Bazighe some 23 years ago.
At home Praise Ofoku ran a new 11.49 seconds personal best at the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) All Comers event at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City last month. She was hotly followed by Tima Seikeseye Godbless who ran 11.51 seconds, her second fastest ever time in the 100m event.
For the men, the duo of Ogheneovo Nicholas Mabilo (10.24s) and Adekalu Nicholas Fakorede (10.26s) showed signs they could be the next big sprinters to emerge from home like Enoch Adegoke did last year as they dominated the AFN All Comers meeting held last month in Benin, Edo state.
The Minister said these impressive performances are good signs for Nigerian athletics ahead of the African Senior Athletics Championships in Mauritius in June, the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, United States of America in July and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.
Dare promised the Sports Ministry will always provide the enabling environment that will lead to the discovery of so many talents and charged the AFN led by Tonobock Okowa to provide enough competition for the athletes to enable them to fulfil their potential.
Last year, the home-based duo of Adegoke and Nwokocha proved athletes can fulfil their potential right here in Nigeria by not only running world class times but also qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Adegoke’s 10.00s performance at the National Trials in Lagos is the fastest legal time ever achieved by a home-based athlete while Nwokocha’s 11.09s performance is still the fastest by a home-based woman since Mercy Nku ran 11.04 at an AFN event in 1997.