—Count gains of IAAF Bronze Label race
Organisers of the 5th Okpekpe International 10km Road Race have denied in strong terms speculations in a section of the sporting media that the Edo State Government spent N70million to host the one-day race a fortnight ago.
Race promoter Mike Itemuagbor who is also the CEO of Pamodzi Sports
Marketing said in a statement that Edo State government did not bankroll the race as was being erroneously speculated.
“The 2017 edition of the Okpekpe International 10km Road Race was not bankrolled by Edo State Government. I don’t know where the reporter who wrote that report got his fact before rushing to the press to misinform people. The 2017 edition was sponsored by Pamodzi Sports
Marketing and its partners. This is the fact of the matter which is well known by everyone connected with the road race,” observed Itemuagbor in the statement.
While thanking Governor Godwin Obaseki for sustaining the involvement of the state in race, Itemuagbor revealed that the Edo State government only offered to pay the prize money for the only IAAF and
AIMS certified road race in the whole of West Africa.
“Edo State government is only involved with the payment of the prize money to the winners which is not anywhere in the region of N70million erroneously reported,” the Pamodzi chief executive clarified.
Meanwhile, organisers of the race are delighted with the progress they have made especially in the development of road races in Nigeria and have hailed the consistent showing of Plateau State athlete, Deborah Pam.
"We are delighted that the investment we made in getting our athletes quality competition with the very best in the world has started bearing positive results. Five years ago we started this journey and today we are glad to announce that Nigerian athletes have proved they are not pushovers and that they are ready to challenge the East Africans for the top positions," said Dare Esan, the media chief of the race.
"There is the belief that the titles and the top eight positions with the accompanying prize monies are meant for the East Africans who have proved globally to be the best in long distance and road races but since last year Nigerians, especially Pam, has proved she has the quality and the big ocassion temperament to rival these East Africans.
"Pam was seventh at the fifth edition of the race held penultimate Saturday in Okpekpe and won not only the N250,000 top prize for the first Nigerian woman to cross the finish line but also $2,000 for coming seventh in the overall women's classification," revealed Esan who added that that would be the second successive year Pam would have a share of the main prize money.
'In 2015 when the race became a Bronze Label event Pam was 11th in 33:34 seconds defeating three Ethiopians (Bonesh Tomene,Zinash Debebe and Silenut Yisunam). She moved three places up in the fourth edition of the race last year to win both the N250,000 top prize for the first Nigerian woman and $1,5000
for pipping Tanzania's Mary Xwaymay to the eighth spot in the overall women's classification.This is huge for us.This will definitely give
other Nigerian elite runners the belief that they can actually beat the Kenyans, the Ethiopians or the Eritreans. With everybody doing his bit like we have done with the Okpekpe road race, I believe Nigeria will sooner rather than later become contenders for top positions at global championships and Games."
Esan is also confident the likes of Pam will, with a little push and more competitions, become a bronze level-running athelte and be qualified to be invited to race in IAAF bronze label 10km races across the globe.
"The cut-off mark by the IAAF is 37 minutes to be classified as a bronze-level elite runner. Pam is consistently running 38.1 and we believe she can break the 38 minutes mark and indeed run inside 37 minutes very soon," said a very delighted Esan who reveals Okpekpe race organisers will help in the develoment of Pam and others who have shown huge promise of becoming top level elite runners.