Tima Godbless, others set to rumble

President of Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Chief Tonobok Okowa, is optimistic that the country’s young athletes at this year’s African U-18 and U-20 Athletics Championships in Ndola, Zambia, will do the nation proud.

Forty-two athletes will fly the nation’s flag at the combined fourth African U-18 Championships and the 15th African U-20 championships, which begin this weekend in Ndola.

The list is made up of 23 U-18 girls and boys, as well as 19 U-20 men and women. Team Nigeria departed in two batches on Tuesday and yesterday due to difficulties in securing seats in one flight.

Nigeria’s U-20 women’s record holder, Tima Godbless, is spearheading the nation’s challenge for medals in the U-20 category, while Asaba 2022 National Sports Festival 100m and 200m silver medalist, Faith Okwose, tops the list of 23 athletes in U-18 category.

Other athletes listed in the U-18 category include Ewa Peace, Eyakpoeyan Justina Tiana, Saibu Yetunde Olayinka, Israel Okon Sunday, Monday Ebuka, Francis James Musa,
Jimoh Justin Osigwe and Abujei Chinedu.

For the U-20, Sule Rejoice Adijatu, Oke Opeyemi Deborah, Usenbor Osaretin Joy, Bright Ada Princess, Ajayi Kanyinsola, Adebisi Musbau, Musa Nurain Kola, Unorji Kingsley Emeka and Caleb Joshua are in the team.

Okowa told The Guardian on phone, shortly before he departed for Ndola that the athletes had undergone intensive training at the Steven Keshi Stadium for over two weeks, adding that he is optimistic they will perform optimally when hostilities begin tomorrow.

The AFN assembled the athletes after its national trials in Kaduna, but moved them to Asaba to train with modern facilities at the Stephen Keshi Stadium.

According to Okowa, who is also the Chairman of Delta State Sports Commission, the athletes showed a steady improvement during the camping exercise in Asaba.

“I am sure they can hold their own against any opponent in Ndola because they got the best of training in Asaba under the supervision of some of the best coaches in the country,” Okowa stated.

Meanwhile, AFN Technical Director, Samuel Onikeku, who traveled with the team to Ndola, says the federation selected the best athletes, who will follow in the footsteps of their predecessors that launched their way to stardom at the championships.

“We selected the best crop of young athletes, who will not only be medal contenders in Ndola, but will grow to become one of the best in their events,” Onikeku stated.

The Guardian recalls that at the last edition held in Cote d’Ivoire in 2019, Enoch Adegoke came to limelight with a 10.29 seconds Championships record, and two years after, he became the first Nigerian man in recent time to run in the final of the Olympics.

Another athlete, Favour Ofili, also set two Championships records in the 200m (23.38sec) and 400m (52.28sec) four years ago, same as Rosemary Chukwuma, who successfully completed a sprint double in Cote d’Ivoire in 2019.

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