Vanguard (Lagos)

17 November 2012

Nigeria: We Must Have Eight Top Sprinters in 2016, Says Onyali

Former African Sprint Champion, Mary Onyali-Omagbemi has tasked the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, AFN and its coaches to buckle up and produce at least eight world sprinters if the country were to make any impact at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Onyali was speaking against the background of over reliance on one athlete to carry the expectations of the entire country. She stated that the authorities know exactly what to do and they should go ahead and begin to work rather than beating about the bush. "We need to start looking for younger athletes to groom now. By 2016 we should be boasting of eight good athletes who are running neck and neck rather than rely on one athlete.

"In my time we had complete rivalry. Though much of the expectation was on me, but there were others who were equally as good as I was," Onyali stated.

She however, stressed that the party was not over for the likes of Blessing Okagbare, declaring that Okagbare who bore the burden of expectations at the London 2012 Olympics for Nigeria could still bounce back and make a statement at the Rio Games.

"Okagbre is still a baby in track and field. She started out late and if she keeps a tight training schedule, she could be back in top form in 2016."

However, she noted that distractions of getting married could make or mar the athlete."If Okagbare decides to get married and her husband is not supportive then we have lost her," Onyali said.

Ennis targets 7k barrier at Moscow 'worlds'

Olympic heptathlon champion, Jessica Ennis has set her sights set on breaking the 7,000 points barrier.

At 26 Ennis has already got her hands on most major titles, with just Commonwealth Games gold eluding her so far after she finished top of the pile this summer at London 2012.

In winning the Olympic title, Ennis broke the British record as she amassed 6,955 points, putting her fifth on the world all-time list.

American Jackie Joyner-Kersee holds the world record with 7,291, with Carolina Kluft of Sweden (7,032) and Russian Larisa Turchinskaya (7,007) the only other competitors ever to break 7,000.

But Ennis believes next year's World Championships in Moscow could be the perfect setting to add her name to that exclusive list.

"Your motivation levels are very different (after the Olympics)," she said. "It's just getting back into it and looking forward to the next championship.

"The World Championships are going to be the main focus for next year, preparing and being where I need to be.

"I'm still 26, I've got time to achieve a bit more, and it's about re-setting your goals.

"Now the Olympic thing has been achieved, that's a great position to be in, but now I have to look forward to trying to get my title back at the Worlds next year and looking forward to 7,000 points, just setting yourself new goals."

AFN gears up for African youths

Athletics Federation of Nigeria, AFN has lined up two tune up competitions to prepare its team for the maiden African Youth Championships tentatively scheduled for March 2013 in Warri.

The competitions include the Procter and Gamble meet and the All Nigeria Primary and Secondary School Championships from where the team for the African Youth Championships will be selected.

According to the AFN technical director, Omatseye Nesiama details of these events are still being worked out, adding that the dates will be revealed in the 2013 calendar of activities for the Federation.

The Procter and Gamble championships was earlier scheduled for this month, but the federation and the sponsors could not finalise details.

"We didn't want to hold competition just for the fun of it. There were details to be sorted out and we are in talks with Procter and Gamble to have the competition come on stream." said the Nesiama, a Navy Captain.

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