The National Stadium, Abuja will witness a beehive of activities for the next three days as athletes hoping to represent Nigeria in the forthcoming Commonwealth Games billed to hold in Gold Coast, Australia will be battling it out at the national trials.
The trials which run from February 14 to February 16 will see top athletes from around the country show why they deserve a place in Team Nigeria to the Commonwealth Games holding from April 4 to 15.
With the foreknowledge that most of their contemporaries doing very well in the various schools abroad might not be available for selection to the Commonwealth Games, the athletes will want to grab the opportunity the Abuja National trials throw at them.
Sunday Adeleye, the Technical Director of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, AFN told PREMIUM TIMES that even though the athletes doing well abroad may not be available for the Commonwealth Games, they still have confidence in the home-groomed talents to deliver.
“It is actually just painful that most of the athletes doing well abroad cannot meet the Commonwealth Games but they should be in for the African Championships. We already have our plans, and this will not affect us” the AFN Technical chief assured.
He added: “We are Nigerians, we are always ready to do great things, we are going to make a statement out there, but we want to be reserved. We are working towards surpassing the record we had at the last Commonwealth Games, but we will take it one step at a time.”
Some of the big guns many will be looking out for at the Abuja trials include three-time 100m champion, Seye Ogunlewe who will officially open his season at the Commonwealth Games Trials.
Many would be waiting to see what the three-time champion has up his sleeves, having been away from the scene for some time. It remains to be seen if he will compete in his trademark event – the 100m, or the 200m.
Ogunlewe’s familiar foes such as former champions, Ogho-Oghene Egwero and Obinna Metu, as well as younger athletes like Usheoritse Itshekiri and Jerry Jakpa will all be lighting up the Abuja tracks.
For the ladies, with the impending absence of Blessing Okagbare, Isoken Igbinosun will be hoping to consolidate on her performance thus far this season.
Currently topping the list with 11.48s, a faster time will likely see her book her spot to Gold Coast.
She must, however, surmount the challenge that will be posed by the likes of Blessing Ogundiran (11.54s), Rosemary Chukwuma (11.74s) and Mercy Ntia-Obong who won the event in Port Harcourt two weeks ago.
In the Men’s 400m, the reigning national champion, Samson Nathaniel, and the in-form Bamidele Emmanuel will headline the challenge in their event.
For the women, Patience Okon-George will be the woman to beat in the 400m.
She holds the two fastest times in Nigeria this season (51.94s and 52.38s), and will definitely be the woman to beat in the 400m.
London 2017 semi-finalist, Yinka Ajayi and teammate Glory Nathaniel will also be pushing for better times to secure their spot in the team to Australia.
A keen contest should play up in the men’s 200m as champion, Emmanuel Arowolo will be battling it out against the likes of Jerry Jakpa (21.28s), Chukwudi Olisakwe (21.50s) and former national champion, Tega Odele.
For the women, the 200m will be open to contests from Igbinosun (23.70s), Praise Idamadudu (24.07s), Ntia-Obong (24.12s) and Chukwuma (24.24s).
There should also be a lot to cheer in the field events where Eke Kalu Onwuka will be hoping to better his mark in the Shot-Put event.
National Champion Kalu Onwuka will have Austine Nwoye to contend with and there is the anticipation of some fireworks.
For the women’s Hammer throw, the national record holder, Queen Obisesan is still the firm favorite but some predict she could better her performance in a bid to secure her spot on the Nigerian team to Gold Coast.