Nigeria's hopes of winning a medal in both the 100 metres and 200 metres events at the on-going Asaba 2018 African Senior Athletics Championship were dampened yesterday by the decision of star sprinter, Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor to pull out of the events.
It means Okagbare won't give Cote d'Ivoire's Marie Jose Ta Lou a fight in the sprints event. Fans were looking forward to a mouthwatering clash between Okagbare and Ta Lou, but the Nigerian record holder in the 100m and 200m did not run in the heats decided yesterday. It was gathered that she might not run in the 200m and probably the relays later in the Championships.
The Guardian could not ascertain exactly why Okagbare chose to pull out of the events, but sources close to the athlete hinted that she was not fully fit and was only looking at building up to compete in the relays.Cote d'Ivoire's Ta Lou, who is the leading woman in the world this season, is now expected to have a free ride to her first African Athletics Championships title with Ghana's Janet Amponsah being the only athlete to pose a challenge. Ta Lou posted 11.25 seconds in the heats.
Nigeria's Joy Udo Gabriel and Mercy Ntia Obong are also in contention for the 100m title. The semifinals will be decided today.Ethiopia's Jamal Vimer Mekonnen became the first gold medal winner at the championships when he clocked 29.08.01 seconds to win the men's 10,000m final decided yesterday.His compatriot, Taige Giram Nait was second in a time of 29.11.09 seconds, while Ugandan's Timothy Torotich settled for the bronze medal in the race with a time of 29.11.87 seconds.
The Kenyan runners, who were expected to mount a challenge for the medals, were visibly struggling to catch up with the chasing pack. One Kenyan official later blamed it on tiredness as their athletes only arrived in Asaba on Monday morning after two days of delay at the Lagos international airport.Meanwhile, the chairman of the local organising committee for the championships, Solomon Ogba has showered praises on Zenith Bank and other sponsors of the continental event for putting their resources to ensure the competition was hosted by Nigeria.
He was particularly happy with Zenith Bank for playing a leading road to support the government of Delta State in the organisation of the event.Zenith Bank donated N30 million to boost the elite athletics from the planning stage. "The government of Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa has done very well, but we also have to commend our sponsors for supporting the championship to make it as big as we want it to be."The private sector has a huge role to play to place sports higher in the country and our sponsors have shown that with this event."