Athletics Federation of Nigeria, AFN president Tonobock Okowa says the performance of Team Nigeria at the just ended 22nd African Athletics Championship gives him cause for optimism.
Team Nigeria won a total of 11 medals made up of five gold, three silver and three bronze medals to finish third on the medal table.
“We have every reason to celebrate because the project we started just under a year ago is already bearing fruits,” said an elated Okowa.
The AFN president says the federation’s investment in the youth and junior athletes are paying off handsomely.
“Most of our top athletes who have been doing great things in the American collegiate circuit were not in Mauritius due to school commitments but we have been able to show our strength in depth,” added Okowa who believes the outing in Mauritius has added to the rising profile of the sport in the world.
“When we decided to take the largest contingent of athletes to the World U20 Championship in Nairobi last year, we knew we had to start that investment in our youth and junior athletes.
“I am not only delighted we came up with our best performance in the history of the championship, I am equally thrilled with the geometrical improvement in some of the athletes. Some of them have achieved world class standards.”
Okowa says the AFN will continue to invest in the youth and junior athletes as well as provide the right environment for the elite athletes to thrive.
The AFN president is also thrilled by the feat achieved by Oyesade Olatoye who made history by winning the country’s first ever gold medal in the women’s Hammer throw.
“Sade has now qualified for the World championship in Oregon and this she achieved with her performance in Mauritius. Chukwuebuka (Enekwechi) also set a new championship record in the men’s Shot Put. I was told it was the only competition record set at the event in Mauritius.
“This year alone, a few Nigerian records, some of them deemed untouchable have been broken by athletes who competed at the World U20 Championship last year. Favour Ofili ran 21.96s, the first sub 22 seconds outdoors to set a new Nigeria 200m record while Ezekiel Nathaniel who grew from a 51seconds runner over the 400m hurdles improved to 49 seconds in Nairobi and has now broken Henry Amike’s 35 year old 48.50s national record. And the boy is only 18 and could be the first Nigerian to run a sub-48 seconds in the event.”
Okowa believes the federation has been able to achieve so much in about a year due to the huge support it has received from the Sports Ministry, particularly the Sports Minister, Sunday Dare.
“His appointment in 2019 has been a breath of fresh air for sports in Nigeria,” said Okowa.
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