Current, past Okpekpe Race, Lagos Marathon winners top Jos Cross Country elite list
Jos-based Nigeria’s most successful marathon, road races, long and middle distances athletics club, High-Altitude Athletics Club, will participate in the Abuja International Marathon with 75 runners, according to the club owner, Steve Nuhu.
Unarguably Nigeria’s most successful distance coach, Steve Nuhu, said over the weekend in Jos that of the 75 runners, 30 of them are elite men and women runners, who have dominated the Nigerian running circuit in the last 10 years and have also done well overseas.
Some of the elite men runners that have registered for the Abuja International Marathon are Emmanuel Gyang Gwom, Adamu Shehu Mu’azu, Gyang Boyi Nyango, Tokbe Christopher Gwet, Okot Friday, Stephen Joshua Dalyop, Istifanus Peter Mahan, Friday Yohanna, Joseph Kumbam and Solomon Dauda.
The elite women, according to Nuhu, are Deborah Pam Badung, Elizabeth Nuhu Power, Blessing Shambor Solomon, Charity Agofure, Hudung Gyang Stephen, Rosemary Danlami, Dinatu Yohanna, Monica Ezekiel Mandun, Juliana Usman and Faustina Oguh.
Nuhu thanked Unicentral Resources Generation Limited, the licensee of Abuja International Marathon, for bringing a proper international marathon to the North.
“I hope our governors from the North will be in Abuja on April 29 and watch the race and see what we have been talking about for so many years. We have what it takes to compete with the best in the world, but our major problem has been lack of support from the government and the corporate world.
“We have been saying the same thing. All parents want their kids in schools today so the only way to develop our children is to make sports part of the school curriculum. Let all the kids run as early as age five or six years because talented ones will be discovered and then we will have the center of excellence in each senatorial zone where the talents discovered would be exposed to elite training at a very early age.
“But our leaders are not listening. With the desired support, we have what it takes to rule the world,” he said.
The race will hold on April 29, 2023.
Meanwhile, current and past winners of the gold label Okpekpe international 10km road race and Access Bank Lagos City Marathon, will lead Nigeria’s elite cast at the nation’s first Cross Country competition scheduled to hold on Saturday at the Rhino Golf Course, Jos.
The race will be the first organised Cross Country event in Nigeria in over four decades and top on the list of athletes already registered for it is Nyango Gyang Boy, the first Nigerian finisher at the 2023 Access Bank Lagos City Marathon held last weekend in Lagos.
Also confirmed for the historic race in Jos are Iliya Pam, the best Nigerian finisher at the 2018 Access Bank Lagos City Marathon and Paul James Pam, who won the 10km race at the same event this year.
Gwom, the 2019 Okpekpe race ‘Nigerian’ winner, will also be competing in Jos as well as Stephen Joshua Dalop, who has also registered to join over 200 others so far confirmed for the event.
Veteran distance runner and multiple Nigerian 5,000 and 10,000m champion, Badung, has also confirmed her participation.
Project coordinator, Tony Osheku, is delighted with the response shown by Nigerian elite athletes and believes the Cross Country event will help the athletes to get physically and mentally stronger.
The former Nigeria 1500m champion believes Youth and Sports Development Minister, Sunday Dare will be remembered for being the first minister in over four decades to take practical steps in developing distance running in Nigeria.
“He organised a training camp for selected long distance runners last year in Jos and has now initiated the first Cross Country competition in Nigeria. This is the first step and I hope it continues so that we can develop our distance runners to be competitive and earn places in the international circuit,” said Osheku.
He believes European managers can also invest in Nigeria like they have done in Kenya and Ethiopia, adding: “I know Dr. Gabriel Rosa invested in Kenya and Jos Hermens, manager of the great Haille Gebrsellasie, built a training camp in Ethiopia.
“Today, Kenyan and Ethiopian runners contribute a great deal to the GDP of the two countries. The athletes have been able to reduce the poverty level in the two countries. We have the talent and the environment to do the same here in Nigeria.”