Nigeria Athletics Trials: What To Expect As The Best Light up Benin City for World Championships and Commonwealth Games
The Nigeria athletics trials have got enthusiasts talking, as top athletes home and abroad will converge at the Samuel Ognemudia Stadium, Benin City, from June 24th – 26th.
The trials will serve as a selection for team Nigeria’s representatives for World Athletics Championships in Oregon, USA, and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, United Kingdom.
With the massive success of Nigerian student-athletes in the NCAA this year, and improved performances of the home-based athletes, especially at the just concluded African Championships in Mauritius, where the majority competed and finished third overall on the medals table, the trials is one to watch out for and has been themed: A Championship of Stars.
Battle Of NCAA Stars In Men’s 100m
The men’s 100m, arguably the most competitive of all the events, will witness five of the country’s best sprinters slug it out for the top three automatic spots, having hit the World Athletics qualifying standard for the 100m.
Top on the list is the reigning World U20 Champion in the 200m, Udodi Onwuzurike, who has the fastest time of 10.03s by a Nigerian this year and will be up against the reigning African Games Champion Raymond Ekevwo (10.04s), NCAA silver medalist, Favour Ashe (10.04s), Alaba Akintola (10.04s), and Usheritse Itsekiri (10.09s). These speedsters asides, Itsekiri will be seeking his first National titles and the bragging rights of ‘Nigeria’s Fastest Man, 2022.
Onwuzurike will also be gunning for the 200m title, where he stands as the overwhelming
favourite with his Personal Best (PB) and African Junior Record (NJR) of 20.08s. His closest
challenger for an upset is Akintola, the reigning National Sports Festival Champion in the
Nigeria Athletics Trials: A Rose Or Grace For Women’s 100m
Meanwhile, in the women’s category, with the confirmed absence of Favour Ofili, the spotlight will be on the NCAA duo of Rosemary Chukwuma and Grace Nwokocha. However, homegirl Tima Godbless won’t be a pushover for an automatic qualifying spot, as she has clocked a PB of 11.25s at the just concluded African Senior Championships in Mauritius.
Nwokocha has an edge in winning her first National title, with a PB of 10.97s, while Chukwuma has a PB of 10.99s and wind-aided 10.82s. Both athletes will also battle in the 200m as favourites, having the second and third fastest Nigerian times this year.
Also in line to win his first National title is Ezekiel Nathaniel in the 400mH, who has surprised everyone with his geometrical rise to international recognition in the 400mH. He clocked 48.42s last month to break Henry Amike’s 35-year-old NR in the event. The teenager, who just turned 19, is unchallenged for the win barring unforeseen circumstances at the Nigeria Athletics Trials.
400m Women: A showdown Between The Present And The Future
The women’s 400m will be another mouth-watering clash between veteran Patience Okon and World Junior Champion Imaobong Uko.
Okon is the defending champion and has won the event on several occasions.
Notwithstanding, with Uko’s recent form and success in the NCAA, where she clocked a PB
and World Championship qualifying standard of 51.22s, the teenager may finally take over
the mantle as Nigeria’s best quarter-miler.
Africa Record Holders Charge For One More National Titles
Tobi Amusan will be looking forward to winning her fourth consecutive 100mH title in Benin. The challenge, however, won’t be in successfully doing this but in gunning to break two records: The Championship Record (CR) of 12.63s and her African Record (AR) of 12.41s.
Ese Brume will be headlining the field events, aiming to add another National title to her
name and perhaps jumping a new Season’s Best (SB) or CR of over 7m, thereby becoming
the first woman to jump that far on Nigerian soil.
Another youngster to watch out for is Nnamdi Chinecherem. He recently broke Pius Bazighe’s long-standing NR of 81.08m in the Javelin Throw, with a massive 81.22m. The World Junior Bronze medallist will be gunning to hit the World Championship qualifying standard of 85m in Benin.
Other athletes at the Nigeria athletics trials such as Chukwuebuka Enekwechi (Shot Put) and Chioma Onyekwere (Discus Throw) will be expected to have dominant victories and successfully defend their titles, except if a rare upset occurs.
With the success of Nigerian athletes in their various events this season, this year’s National trials will be referenced as one of the best in years to come.