Teenage sensation, Sunday Akintan, 17, is among athletes in Abuja from different parts of the country to jostle for inclusion in the country’s squad to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games scheduled for July and August.
The competition in Abuja is the third and final leg of the All Comers competition, which involves the country’s best athletes. The All Comers competition began at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin in March, moved to Yaba College of Technology Sports Ground, Lagos, last month and is now making its final stop in Abuja.
While the competition in Lagos was used as the final window for home-based athletes to secure the qualification standard for the 22nd African Senior Athletics Championships scheduled to hold in Mauritius in June, the Abuja event will serve as the final chance for the athletes to secure places in the AFN Classics scheduled to hold in Benin in a fortnight.
According to AFN Secretary General, Adeniyi Beyioku, the event in Abuja will begin today and end tomorrow. The AFN scribe told The Guardian in a telephone chat yesterday that majority of the athletes have settled down in their various hotels in Abuja.
AFN Technical Director, Samuel Onikeku, said the All Comers competition was designed to give athletes the competition they need to aid their preparations for major athletics championships and games this summer. “The AFN is happy with the performances of some of the athletes as they prepare for the major events ahead, starting with the African championships in Mauritius next month. Our team to the championships will be dominated by home-based athletes and the federation is happy to always get them ready in terms of competitions,” he stated.
Onikeku said from the competition and others organised by coaches in some states across Nigeria, the athletes have continued to impress. “It is heart warming to note that a number of our junior athletes have been churning out personal best performances since the start of the season.
“For example, Sunday Akintan, a 17-year-old has jumped from a 10.65 seconds runner just a little over a year ago to run a 10.23 seconds lifetime best. Same as 19-year- old Ogheneovo Nicholas Mabilo, who ran 10.24seconds at the first edition of the AFN All Comers in Benin in March.
“Another teenager, Konyasila Ajayi, improved from a 10.92 seconds personal best to run 10.26 seconds at the Yaba College of Technology sports ground last month, while Gracious Junior Ushie, a 20-year-old also ran a new 10.25 seconds personal last month in Ilaro.
“Prosper Oghenemine Ekporore’s 13.71s performance in the 110m hurdles in Lagos last month is the fastest any Nigerian man has run since Oyeniyi Abejoye ran 13.69 seconds in June 2019. Abejoye himself was second in the race in Lagos with a 13.72 seconds performance.”
The AFN technical director is also impressed with the women sprinters, including Praise Ofoku, the 100m finalist at the World U-20 championships in Nairobi, Kenya, last year, who ran a new 11.49 seconds personal best in Benin two months ago.
“There is also the story of 16-year-old Rejoice Sule Hadijat, who broke 12 seconds for the first time in her career by running a huge 11.66 seconds personal best in Ijebu Ode three months ago.
“The future of track and field is very bright in Nigeria and with what our athletes are doing in the colleges in America, the AFN is confident Nigeria is on the path to restoring and surpassing her lost glory,” Onikeku said.