‘Bamidele Emmanuel not in our plans’

Yesterday’s heavy down pour in Benin notwithstanding, athletics lovers from different parts of the city thronged the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium to catch a glimpse of world champion, Tobiloba Amusan, silver medalist at the last World Championships in Oregon, U.S., Ese Brume and other foreign-based athletes, who just arrived in the city for the national trials.

The arrival of Amusan, Brume and others, including Udodi Onwuzurike, took the number of the foreign-based athletes to 16 yesterday. Amusan, who won the 100m hurdles at the Diamond League in Sweden on Sunday night, arrived in Benin City at about 11.00 a.m. yesterday, but the heavy rain delayed her appearance at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium.

The news of her arrival had spread around the town and at about 4.00 p.m., she, alongside Brume, and other foreign-based athletes took to the tracks with the fans in their hundreds applauding from the stands.

Over 160 athletes, including some home-based stars, those from the U.S and European countries, will be on parade at the stadium today to vie for spots in Nigeria’s team to the 19th World Athletics Championships in Budapest.

The national trials will end on July 7. Last year, the same Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium hosted the trials for both the World Championships in Oregon and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.

Meanwhile, AFN has said that reigning NCAA 400m champion, Bamidele Emmanuel, will not represent the country at the fast approaching World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

The Nigerian had an impressive 400m race at the Diamond League in Stockholm, Sweden on Sunday evening, placing second in 45.48 seconds behind South Africa’s Nene Zakithi (45.30).

Since his exploits in Sweden, many Nigerian athletics lovers have been asking if Bamidele will be part of foreign-based stars expected at the national trials.

Bamidele has not represented Nigeria at any continental or international event, but he is still registered as a Nigerian by World Athletics. However, an official of the AFN told The Guardian, yesterday, that the quartermiler is not in their plans for the World Championships in Budapest.

“Bamidele has waited for so long to represent another country; so, we don’t want to disturb him. He is free to represent any country of his choice. He is not in our plans for the World Championships in Budapest,” the official stated.

Bamidele moved to Bahrain in 2018 and it was rumoured he was denied a change of allegiance by World Athletics following the world governing body’s strict rule in 2017 on switching of country.

Since then, the University of Florida student-athlete was said not to consider running for Nigeria. His post race comment after his Diamond League in Stockholm, Sweden, on Sunday suggests he is either considering a change of allegiance to Bahrain or a change in stance regarding competing for Nigeria.

“The race would have been much better without the wind. It is my first Diamond League and the first race in Europe this season. I still struggle with the time difference; it is really difficult to sleep at night.

“I just need some time to get used to it. I arrived in Europe one week ago and I am based in Lisbon.

“Hopefully, I can run another Diamond League and then focus on the World Championships in Budapest, and let´s see what is going to happen there,” Bamidele stated in Stockholm.

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