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Track and Field: The return of National Trials glamour

By Abdulrasheed Adelakun

It was a great relief to see the athletes in their numbers coming around to compete at the track of the Yabatech Sports Complex, Lagos

There was so much anxiety in the air since the announcement of the 2021 National Olympic Trials, with so many doubting the availability of foreign-based athletes for the championship that is always full of glamour.

Since the days of Mobil as the sponsor of the Trials and later Delta State as sponsor and host, the trial has really lost its glamour with foreign-based athletes skipping the meet in recent years.

You cannot really blame those who felt it might not be up to the standard expected when the ministry of Youth and Sports Development announced June 17 to 20 for the date of this year’s Olympic Trials.

With the uncertainty on who will lead the Athletic Federation of Nigeria after the recent crisis that engulfed the federation, Nigerians were sceptical of what will and will not be.

So it was a great relief to see the athletes in their numbers coming around to compete at the track of the Yabatech Sports Complex, Lagos, to the admiration of the fans who are mostly students of the College of Technology.

Over 20 foreign-based athletes made the trials from Queen of the track, Blessing Okagbare to the likes of Ruth Usoro, Rilwan Alowonle, Tobi Amusan, Ese Brume, Favour Ofili, Chidi Okezie, Seye Ogunlewe, Rosemary Chukwuka, Alex Al-Ameen, Dotun Ogundeji, Oyesade Olatoye and Chukwuebuka Enekwechi, Mike Edwards, Annette Echikunwoke and Chioma Onyekwere.

Queen of the Track herself, Blessing Okagbare, was the cynosure of all eyes as she took to the track on the opening day, running to a staggering 10.63secs in the women’s 100m race in the opening day of the trials to win her eight titles after achieving that feat between 2009 and 2014. She however skipped the trials in 2015 before returning for her seventh title in 2016, the last time she competed at the trials.

Enoch Adegoke, a bubbling star won the men’s 100m race in a staggering 10.00secs, thereby achieving the Olympic standard as he joined the likes of Divine Oduduru, Raymond Ekevwo and Usheoritse Itsekiri, who already made the standard.

Former BBNaija house mate, Mike Edwards, nearly turned the arena upside down during his event, the men’s high jump, as his fans since the days of the Big Brother house continued to shout his name at every moment of his jump.

Esther Issa was not left out of the accolade as she jumped a new Personal Best of 1.88m while Chidi Okezie and Patience Okon-George shine in the 400m for men and women respectively.

Oyesade Olatoye got her first ever gold medal on Nigeria soil, emerging winner in the women’s shot put.

What would have been the icing on the cake was the 100m hurdles final but was marred by a little glitch with the timer malfunctioning as Tobi Amusan raced to the finishing line in 12.3secs, though hand-timed. Oyeniyi Abejoye also wins the men’s 110m hurdles.

Chukwuebuka Enekwechi, Annette Echikunwoke, Dotun Ogundeji, Olatoye and Chioma Onyekwere all came out smoking in their various events on the third day of the Olympic Trials.

Echikunwoke, who emerged African Record holder in women’s hammer throw, confirmed her status as someone to watch out for at the Olympics with the gold medal in the event with her friend and teammate, Olatoye taking the silver medal.

The final day saw the country’s 4x100m women increasing their rankings from top 16 to top 15 while the men will have another opportunity to qualify later in the week at the Lagos Open Athletics Meet.

Same applies to the 400m men and women as they failed to get a better time to increase their rankings.

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