Nigeria Athletics’ Qualifying Team for World Championships and Commonwealth Games
Nigerian Athletics Trials: Winners And Record Breakers
Athletics enthusiasts in Nigeria were entertained to three days of spectacular athletes’ performances at the Nigerian trials, which took place at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin from June 24th – 26th, 2022.
The trials also referred to as the National Championships, served as selection for the country’s representatives at the upcoming World Championships in Eugene, the USA, and Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, United Kingdom.
At the end of the Championships, top athletes with the automatic qualifying World Athletics (WA) standard secured their spot on the team either by successfully defending their National titles, being crowned new Champions, or getting the top three automatic spot; while those who had not initially surpassed the standard, targeted doing so for a spot on the team.
Here’s a review of the trials and automatic qualifiers expected to compete at the two global events.
At least four athletes had hit the WA qualifying standard of 10.05s before travelling down to Benin, with three slots allocated to a country by WA in each event, the speed battle wasn’t just to race for one of those slots but also to earn the bragging rights of becoming the ‘2022 Nigeria’s Fastest Man’.
In the final, Favour Ashe ran his fastest career time clocking 9.99s, which saw him become the 12th Nigerian athlete in history to run sub-10s and second to do that on home soil. It is also his first National title and second major medal after the NCAA Championship Silver medal.
Alaba Akintola finished a close second running 10.06s to secure his slot, having run 10.04s earlier in the season, while Godson Brume though placing 3rd in 10.15s, won’t be competing in the individual event due to not hitting the standard.
Ironically, the duo of Udodi Onwuzurike (10.03s) and Raymond Ekevwo (10.04s), who had already surpassed the qualifying time, couldn’t get the third automatic spot, as Onwuzurike finished 6th in 10.53s, and Ekevwo didn’t compete at all having sustained an injury during the Invitational Relays the day before.
It’s now left to the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) on the athlete they’ll select to fill the last spot between the two, though Brume and Seye Ogunlewe (4th position) will be in the relay team.
Before the trials, the trio of Favour Ofili (10.93s), Grace Nwokocha (10.97s), and Rosemary Chukwuma (10.99s) had qualified for the World Championships by surpassing the mark of 11.15s.
With the confirmed absence of Ofili in Benin, Nwokocha made massive use of the opportunity, racing to her first National title in 11.03s, ahead of Chukwuma in 11.09s. She was unchallenged throughout, running the fastest time of 11.04s in the semi-final before sealing it in the final. Placing third was rising sprint sensation Tima Godbless in 11.38s, while Joy Udo-Gabriel made a massive comeback by finishing 4th in 11.53s.
As neither Godbless nor Udo-Gabriel could hit the standard, Ofili retains her spot to compete in the individual event in Eugene, while both are in contention of making the relay teams in Birmingham.
Tobi Amusan was always going to be unchallenged for the title, so she had her eyes set on breaking the Championship Record (CR) of 12.63s and perhaps breaking her African Record (AR) of 12.41s.
She did the CR on an outstanding note, shattering the previous record with 12.53s to win her third consecutive National title, ahead of Grace Ayemoba, with 13.54s and Stella Ayanleke, in 13.85s. Both will be hoping to be on the Commonwealth Games team.
Teenage quarter-mile sensation Imaobong Uko will be Nigeria’s only representative in this event at the World Championship, having qualified with her Personal Best (PB) of 51.24s earlier in the season; although she didn’t compete in the individual event at the trials, thereby allowing Knowledge Omovoh win her first National title in 53.60s, but sadly didn’t surpass the qualifying standard of 51.35s for her competing in Eugene.
Notwithstanding, Omovoh will be hoping to make the Commonwealth Games team alongside veteran Patience Okon, who ran an SB and fastest time of 51.80s, ahead of Ella Onojuvwevwo with a PB of 52.59s in the semis, Queen Usunobun with a PB of 53.23s, and Uko.
Just like the women’s one-lap event, Ezekiel Nathaniel will be Nigeria’s only representative in the event at the World Championships due to his PB and Nigerian Record (NR) of 48.42s. The time beat the qualifying standard of 48.90s, so was only made to compete in the relays at the trials. He is also one of the highest-ranked Nigerian athletes on the world list, sitting comfortably in 8th position.
Men and Women’s 200m
In the men’s 200m, Onwuzurike (20.08s) surpassed the qualifying mark of 20.24s, with Akintola being close to it with his PB of 20.26s. Surprisingly, only Akintola showed up to race in the event at the trials, eventually winning his first National title in 20.51s. Considering only Onwuzurike met the qualifying standard, Akintola has also earned a spot via the world ranking list.
The same also applies in the women’s category, as the trio of Ofili (21.96s), Chukwuma (20.33s), and Nwokocha (20.44s) have all qualified. They will don the country’s colours in the event when the championship begins in Eugene.
Top on the list of qualifiers in the field event is World Championship and Olympic Bronze medallist, Ese Brume, who won her fifth consecutive Long Jump Nigerian title with a massive leap of 6.89m, her second farthest jump this season.
Ruth Usoro booked her spot in Eugene after finishing second with a mark of 6.53m. Although she didn’t hit the automatic standard of 6.82m, she will get a wildcard by WA to compete due to her PB of 6.78m set earlier in the season, which currently ranks her 13th on the world list.
The NR holder in the Triple Jump will also be competing in her main event after being a finalist at the World Indoor Championships. Again her SB of 14.11m recorded as her winning jump for the National title is enough for a wildcard based on the world list, which ranks her 22nd.
The men’s Shot Put witnessed NR holder, Chukwuebuka Enekwechi throw a massive SB and CR of 21.25m, easily defending his title. Doing this, the African Champion punched his ticket to Oregon and Birmingham, where he’ll be gunning to upgrade his position finish from the last competitions and perhaps win a medal.
Discus thrower Chioma Onyekwere will be competing in Oregon after successfully defending her African title in Mauritius. She sealed her ticket by placing second at the trials, in a rare upset where Obiageri Amechi won her first National title with a PB of 58.10m.
Sade Olatoye is another thrower that has punched her ticket to Eugene, after winning the African Championships Gold medal in the women’s hammer throw with 63.67m, a mark she bettered with 64.06m to be crowned the National Champion.
Team Nigeria will have two relay teams competing at the World Championships. The men’s 4x100m quartet of Ashe, Brume, Akintola, and Onwuzurike secured the last qualifying spot after winning the Invitational Relays in Benin, clocking an SB of 38.35s.
The same goes for the mixed relay team getting the last qualification spot, with their 3:13.60 from last year’s Tokyo Olympics.
The women’s 4x100m would have qualified with their 42.97s from last year’s Nigerian Olympic trials but for the ban on Blessing Okagbare, who was part of the team six days after she had evaded sample collection on June 13, 2021. The result has now been disqualified due to her involvement, and Nigeria has therefore lost its potential qualification place in the event at the World Championships.
NOTE: This qualification list is subject to change, especially with the Commonwealth Games, where more athletes can get a chance as there’s no qualification standard for the Games.