Vanguard (Lagos)

30 April 2012

Nigeria: Olympics - Country Sends Poor Signals

In the cold weather of University of Pennsylvania the atmosphere was electric. The 49,000 crowd made it so.

Among them was the Prime Minister of Jamaica Portia Simpson. She was here to support Jamiaican teams and was cheered when her presence was acknowledged. It was standing ovation. The athletes also received their own inspiring ovation.

Waiting for the 4x400 exchange in the USA vs the World Photo by penn relays

This is one of the homes of track and field, the Penn Relays. On Saturday, the fans had a lot to cheer. They enjoyed the races, cheered the athletes and cheered themselves too. Yes, each time a cycle of Mexican waves ended the fans clapped for themselves, something that the soccer fans may have to adopt to add to the colour of atmospherics on great occasions.

Two flags and colours dominated the atmosphere. They were those of USA and Jamaica. Any other country that wanted to be noticed had to do that on the tracks. Nigeria lined out their relay teams. But at the end of the day, they needed to do more to be noticed. They needed more to join the league of London Olympic gold chasers.

Tobi Ogumola, Godday James, Obinna Metu and Saul Weigopwa ran a very disappointing 3.009 in the 4x400m to place last in their race and 13 out of the 14 countries that ran the event here. Even some High school teams returned better times.

In the 4Ã-100 men, Nigeria ran 39.98 to place 5th. Peter Emelieze, Benjamin Adukwu, Obinna Metu and Ogho Egwero ran the relay. These times will not get them places in the London Olympics and their search and quest for qualification will continue in the races ahead. But Innocent Egbunike, the Nigerian coach, must make changes if he hopes to qualify. The way his men ran the relays showed that they lacked the fire those running great times can boast of.

Nigeria's female teams have a different story. They have already qualified for the Olympics and what they need is to better their times and be in good shape for the Olympics.

Agnes Osazuwa, Gloria Atuma, Damola Osayomi gave such hope with their 3rd placing in the 4x100m event. They returned a time of 43.92 behind Jamaica's 43.31 for the second place and USA's 42.19 for the first position.

The 4x400m women team disappointed too. But their past performances have put them in good stead for an Olympic outing otherwise what they did at the Penn Relays fell short of expectation. They were 5th with 3.031. Idara Otu, Ajoke Odumosu, Magret Etim and Bukola Abongoloko did not fair well.

"I think that these athletes will do better with time. I'm assuring you that things will change before the Olympics," Gabriel Okon said in their Marriot Hotel moments after the races.

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