Some athletic buffs will not believe the real Olympic Games have started until the Track and Field get off the blocks.
Athletics will begin on Friday at the main Olympic Stadium with many eyes fixed on Usain Bolt, the sport’s rave of the moment.
As some of them say, Track and Field sports are the core of the Olympic Games and represent the spirit and letters of the elite competition.
This is also the sports that Nigeria, the U.S., and some of the Caribbean countries, including Jamaica, Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago will pin their hopes to harvest medals.
Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare, a bronze medallist from the Long jump event of the last Beijing Olympics appears to be the most outstanding athlete on parade by Nigeria.
She is also the second best all-time 100 metres record of 10.95 secs; with the best being Glory Alozie with 10.90 in 1999. Alozie had a change of nationality and is now representing Spain.
It is justifiable to pin our hopes on Okagbire for medals from 100 metres, 4X400m relay race and the long jump, where she made the difference in China. She was also the winner in the long jump and silver in the 100 metres from the Maputo All Africa Games.
The hope placed on her however is an indication of the dearth of competent Nigerian athletes.
“This is no doubt, an indication of ill-preparedness for a major competition like the Olympics,’’ noted some analysts and close followers of Nigerian athletics, who reckon that in the past the country paraded many potential world beaters.
“In the past, Nigeria tried to bring up a variety of top athletes with attractive records that are potential world beaters. All that is now in the past,’’ noted George Aluo, a Lagos-based Nigerian journalist who is in London for the Games.
Aluo writes for the Sun Newspapers
Another athletic buff, who pleaded anonymity, said the likes of Danmola Osayonmi and Tosin Oke could take advantage of the top opposition in their area even though Osayomi’s form appears suspect.
She won an Olympic bronze medal in the 4×100 metres relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She also won the 100 and 200 metres sprints at the 2007 All-Africa Games.
“Oke, it is hoped will look good in the Triple jump event, because some top British performers like Nigerian-born British, Philips Idowu has not done much within the season to pose a threat.
“All that needs to happen is for Oke to lift his jump and he can win,’’ he added.
The source said one of the worries for the country has been the depletion of Nigeria’s women for the 4×100, where Lauretta Ozo was dropped for testing positive to performance enhancing substance.
He added that perhaps Nigeria could have chances from 400 metres hurdler, Ajoke Odumosu, who in 2010 won the gold medal in the 400 metres hurdles at the New Delhi Commonwealth Games and was runner-up at the African Championships.
She also won a silver medal for Africa at the Continental Cup. She holds the National record in the 400 metres hurdles with a personal best of 54.59 seconds. If she strikes the right cord, she could become a medal hopeful.
It is certain that the President of Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Solomon Ogba, understands that the country’s chances are limited as he decided to maintain a low profile assessment of Nigeria’s chances.
“I cannot predict the eventual outcome, but I have great hopes. Let’s offer the athletes all the support from Friday. My concerns are for them to get to the semi-finals.
“If they make it to the semis, then, we can take it from there,” he said.