The minister of youth and sports development, Sunday Dare, has hailed Nigeria’s U-20 4x400m mixed relay team for making history at the ongoing World Athletics Championship (WAC) in Nairobi, Kenya.
Team Nigeria made history on Wednesday by clinching gold in the 4x400m mixed relay event.
The quartet of Johnson Nnamani, Imaobong Nse Uko, Opeyemi Oke, and Bamidele Ajayi stormed to victory in a record time of 3:19.70, beating Poland (3:19.80) and India (3:20.60) to second and third place respectively.
Nigeria made a change to the quartet that ran a then championship record of 3:21.66 in the semi-final by bringing in Nse Uko – the fastest girl in the quarter-mile coming to the race.
Nse, who was one of the youngest athletes to the just concluded Tokyo 2020 Olympics in Japan, did not disappoint her fellow compatriots as she handed over the baton to the third-leg runner, Oke in the first position.
Nse has also qualified for the individual 400m final scheduled for Saturday and stands as the favourite to restore Nigeria as World U20 champions since Bisi Afolabi succeeded Fatimah Yusuf as queen of the quartermile in 1994 in Lisbon, Portugal.
Minister described the feat as heartwarming, saying it will mark a perfect start for the new board of Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN)-led by Tonobok Okowa.
“I want to specially congratulate our U20 team for making history in Nairobi. This gold in the 4×400m Mixed Relay event is for all Nigerians and this should serve as the perfect start the new board of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) needs to correct the ills of the immediate past and return Nigeria among the major athletics nations in the world,” he said.
“I remember how dominant we were in the early years of the championship when we dominated the sprint and quarter mile events. I still vividly recall how Tina Iheagwan, Falilat Ogunkoya and Mary Onyali dominated the 100m and 200m events at the inaugural edition of the championship in Athens in 1986. I also remember we won the women’s 400m in successive editions. Who will forget how Francis Obikwelu became the second sprinter to win the 100m and 200m in 1996 in Sydney, Australia?” Dare asked.
He challenged the Okowa-led AFN to build on the successes it will record in Nairobi. “I am calling on the AFN to ensure the athletes discovered here are monitored and given the necessary encouragement to make them follow in the footsteps of their predecessors like Falilat Ogunkoya, Mary Onyali, Ese Brume, Chioma Ajunwa and Blessing Okagbare who grew to become individual Olympic medalists for Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, the duo of Godson Oghenebrume and Praise Ofokwu also qualified for the 100m men and women’s final scheduled for today, Thursday.
Oghenebrume ran a time of 10.22 seconds to win his semifinal heat, while Ofoku was also first in her semifinal heat, clocking 11.57.
In the men’s javelin throw, Chinecherem Nnamdi threw a massive new personal best and Nigeria’s U-20 record of 78.03 to qualify for the final. Nnamdi, the African Games bronze medalist added almost 5cm to his previous best of 73.24m to jump ahead of the queue as one of the favourites for the gold medal in the category.