Unless a miracle happens, Team Nigeria may lose the battle to win the ongoing 2023 African U-18 and U-20 Athletics Championships in Ndola, Zambia, to South Africa.
Team Nigeria won eight more gold medals yesterday, but they may not be enough to beat the South Africans to the number one spot. Nigerian athletes were everywhere, yesterday, winning eight more gold medals to take their total medals haul, so far, to 12 gold medals. Two more finals were yet to be concluded as at press time yesterday.
Tima Godbless earned gold in the U-20 women’s 200m, while Grace Oshiokpu won the U-20 women long jump. Faith Okwose captured a gold medal in 200m U-18, just as Samuel Ogazi also won the 200m Boys U-18.
Inivi Precious also won gold in the triple jump Boys’ U-18, while Nigeria’s male and female medley team also captured gold medals. Nigeria’s silver medalists, yesterday, were Israel Okon (200m Boys U-18), Musbau Adebisi (200m Junior Boys U-20) and Adetutu Oladeloye (200m Junior Girls U-20). Tiana Justina won a bronze medal in the 200m Girls U18.
Nigeria had jumped to the top of the medals table on Day 1 of the championship, with the duo of Joma Oghenefejiro Praise and Oshiokpu Grace grabbing two gold medals in the U-20 and U-18 triple jump event. Nigerian athletes also took five gold, three silver and four bronze medals on Day 2, to take their medals haul to seven gold, five silver and five bronze.
However, the South Africans, who are in Ndola with a large delegation of 120 people, including 105 athletes, have taken over the medals table, capturing more medals in track and field events.
Speaking with The Guardian from Ndola, yesterday, president of Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Chief Tonobok Okowa, who has just been elected as one of the vice presidents of the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA), said: “We are doing the best we can to win more medals in the championship, but sincerely speaking, the task of finishing on top of the medals table looks difficult because South Africa is dominating everywhere. They entered 105 athletes against the 42 from Nigeria. Even at that, I expected that our North African brothers will give South Africa a major challenge, but they are not.
“At the moment, Ethiopia is seriously challenging Kenya in long distance races and I expected the same opposition from North African athletes against South Africa. But we won’t relent in our push to finish among the top countries here in Zambia,” Okowa stated.
AFN’s Technical Director, Samuel Onikeku, also believes the battle for the top spot might be difficult, adding, however, that Nigerian athletes deserve commendation for their impressive outing so far.
“We have won five gold medals today, and we still have two more finals left. Hopefully, our athletes will triumph in those events,” Onikeku stated.