Sports

‘If well nurtured, Nigeria’s athletes will sweep medals at Paris 2024 Olympics’

Former athlete, Seigha Porbeni, has said that the performance of the country’s track and field stars at the just-concluded Commonwealth Games in England is a pointer that Team Nigeria will ‘sweep’ medals at Paris 2024 Olympics Games.

Nigeria had its best performance in the Commonwealth Games at the 2022 edition in Birmingham, winning 12 gold, nine silver and 14 bronze medals.

The last batch of Team Nigeria’s contingent to the Commonwealth Games will leave Birmingham tomorrow.

In his active days as athlete, Porbeni was an all-rounder, competing in seven different sports. He was Nigeria’s first decathlete, who later trained as a coach. He introduced combined events into the nation’s athletics, when the National Stadium, Lagos, was like Mecca of sports.

Speaking with The Guardian, yesterday, Porbeni said Team Nigeria would be the cynosure of all eyes at Paris 2024 Olympics going by the excellent performance of the nation’s athletes in Birmingham.

Apart from the duo of Tobi Amusan and Ese Brume, Porbeni is banking on other young athletes like Favour Ofili, Grace Nwokocha, Rosemary Chukwuma, Udodi Onwuzuruike, Favour Ashe, Alaba Akintola, Raymond Ekevwho, Enoch Adegoke and Tima Godbless for the ‘medal rush’ in Paris.

Ofili ran 22.51 seconds to win silver in Birmingham to become the third Nigerian woman after Mary Onyali (1994) and Blessing Okagbare (2014) to win a medal in the 200m at the Commonwealth Games.

She later combined with Tobi Amusan, Rosemary Chukwuma and Grace Nwokocha to win gold in Women’s 4x100m relay.

In 2021, Nwokocha, a multiple national champion in 100 metres, posted a new personal best time of 11.09 seconds and, in the process, became the first Nigerian athlete to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. She ran a new personal best time of 11.00 seconds in her heat to qualify for the semifinals at the Olympics.

Chukwuma gained her first international experience at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, where she won a bronze medal.

Porbeni, who is the head coach of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), predicted that if the athletes are well taken care of, a sprinter like Tima Godbless could also be Nigeria’s joker in Paris 2024 Olympics.

At the just concluded World U-20 Athletics Championship in Cali, Colombia, Tima Godbless distinguished herself as a great potential, setting a personal best and a national juniors record of 11.08s in the fourth heat of the women’s 100m event.

Godbless broke the national record, which was set by Joan Uduak Ekah in 1999 by just a millisecond, a time that was enough for her to finish fastest across all seven heat races in Colombia.

THE GUARDIAN

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