I’ll continue to boost athletes’ morale, provide support, vows AFN boss

by Oviri Kelvin, Sports Editor, Abuja

…Praises athletes for remarkable achievements in Birmingham

The President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Tonobok Okowa, has vowed to continue to support and boost the morale of Nigerian athletes in major athletics championships.

Okowa said the athletes made the country proud in their outing in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

The AFN President, who conceded that he was overwhelmed with the haul of medals on Sunday, stressed that it was the best-ever record attained by Nigeria in the quadrennial Commonwealth Games.

According to him during an interaction with The Guardian in Birmingham, the journey that led to Nigeria’s exemplary performance was tedious for the athletes, however, he expressed his appreciation to God for the feat attained.

Particularly on Sunday, when Ese Brume won the gold medal in the long jump event to increase Nigeria’s gold medals to 12 while setting a new game record, Okowa disclosed at that point the moment was unfathomable.

“I don’t know the appropriate word to describe this moment. I am on top of the world here in Birmingham,” Okowa said.

“Help me to thank the athletes from Amusan to Favour Ofili, Rosemary Chukwuma, Grace Nwokocha, Ese Brume and all those that made Nigeria proud here in Birmingham.

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“The journey has been very rough for athletics I must say, but I thank God for giving us this glorious outing.

“I will continue to do my best by giving the athletes morale and any  kind of support they will need to do well at major championships.

“I thank the coaches and all those that contributed in one way or the other to that victory,” he appreciated.

Recounting the achievements of Team Nigeria, AFN in a report, enumerated that Nigeria got a gold medal from world record breaker, Tobi Amusan, in the women’s 100m hurdles, a gold medal from women’s 4x100m by Favour Ofili, Rosemary Chukwuma and Tobi Amusan Grace Nwokocha and a gold medal in the long jump by Ese Brume which took Nigeria’s medal haul to 12 gold, including games record.

AFN stated that the gold medal won in Birmingham by the women’s 4x100m relay team, on Sunday, was the first for the country in 28 years. The quartet did the record-breaking in fashion, running 42.10 seconds to break the barely month old 42.22 seconds African record they set in Oregon, USA, at the World Athletics Championships on July 23.

The nation’s athletics governing body added that the World and Commonwealth Games 100m hurdles champion and record holder, Amusan, started the historic run with a brilliant first leg before handing over to Ofili who ensured Nigeria maintained the advantage before giving Chukwuma, the individual 100m finalist the baton.

On receiving the baton from Ofili, Chukwuma ran the curve perfectly and handed it over to the reigning Nigerian 100m queen, Nwokocha in the first position.

Spectacularly, Nwokocha, 21 years of age, displayed her youthfulness to maintain the advantage despite the threat by Great Britain’s anchor leg runner, Darly Neita to bring home Nigeria’s first women’s relay gold in well over two decades.

AFN recalled that four years ago, Amusan was part of the relay team that finished third at the Gold Coast in Australia.

Nigeria won her first 4x100m relay Commonwealth Games gold in 1994 in Victoria, Canada when the quartet of Faith Idehen, Mary Tombiri, Christy Opara-Thompson, and Mary Onyali ran a then 42.99 seconds Games record to win.

The country’s first actual 4x100m relay medal was won four years earlier in Auckland, New Zealand where the quartet of Beatrice Utondu, Fatima Yusuf, Charity Opara and Chioma Ajunwa won a bronze medal.

The men’s team of Udodi Onwuzurike, Favour Ashe, Alaba Akintola and Raymond Ekevwo also made history with the bronze medal win on Sunday.

The medal is the first by the men’s 4x100m relay team since 1990 (32 years ago) when the quartet of Victor Nwankwo, Davidson Ezinwa, Osmond Ezinwa and Abdullahi Tetengi ran 38.85 seconds to win the silver medal at the Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland in 1990.

With the relay gold medal, Amusan made it two on a single day, as she had earlier grabbed the 100m hurdles gold medal with a Games Record yesterday.

On her part, Ese Brume provided the last golden moment, leaping 7.00m in her last jump, after setting a Games Record of 6.99m earlier.

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