Though it is still early days, Team Nigeria athletes started their campaign at the African Championships on a bright note on Wednesday in Asaba, Delta State.
The athletes that were on parade qualified for the next rounds in their various events on Day 1 of the biennial continental championships.
Leading the line for Team Nigeria on Day 1 was Joy Udo-Gabriel, who marked her second senior international debut for the country on a winning note.
Joy was a delight to watch as she won the 100m Heat 3 in 11.64s, far ahead of Gambia’s Gina Bass with 11.74s, while Congo’s Ngoye Akamabi sealed the third automatic qualifying spot in 11.78s.
In Heat 4, Nigeria’s Mercy Ntia-Obong had to overcome a poor start to finish second with a time of 11.66s, while Ghana’s Halutie Hor was 3rd in 11.77s in a race won by Egypt’s Basant Hemida, who posted a time of 11.60s,
There was however a big blow as Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor who was initially listed prior to the championships to compete was not on the start list, having withdrawn from both the 100m and 200m race.
Okagbare, who is the Nigeria record holder in both events, cited injury as her reason for pulling out while also tendering an unreserved apology to the fans and Nigerians who had been eager to see her in action in Asaba
She said, “For me, the 100 and 200 meters are rounds and my body cannot really handle certain things. It’s not my call; it was a call from my team. Sometimes; I have to forget about Blessing and everything she wants and listen to the advice given and that was what happened today (Wednesday)”.
In the men’s category, all Team Nigeria’s representatives also pulled through into the semi-finals; though much more will be expected of them going forward.
Reigning national champion, Seye Ogunlewe won his Heat in an entertaining style clocking 10.42s.
Also, home boy, Ogho-Oghene Egwero finished 3rd in Heat 1 in 10.52s, with defending Champion Ben Youssef Meite of Ivory Coast taking the win in 10.41s, slightly ahead of South Africa’s Simon Magakwe in 10.42s.
Meanwhile, youngster and newly signed DAG Ambassador, Enoch Adegoke, qualified as one of the fastest losers after finishing 4th in 10.64s. The heat was won by Commonwealth Champion, Akani Simbine, in 10.30s ahead of Karim Riffayan who clocked 10.48s, while Mark Odihiambo was 3rd in 10.61s.
The semi-finals of both categories will take place on Thursday.