The oil rich, serene city of Sapele, Delta State, is bubbling as the who-is-who in Nigeria’s athletics circles are in town for the All-Nigeria Championships and also for the CAA Grand Prix/Warri Relays.
Leading the star-cast of athletes is home girl, Blessing Okagbare, who is in town to yet again confirm her status as the country’s number one figure on the tracks.
Action begins on Thursday with the 2016 All-Nigeria Athletics Championship which serves as trial for the Rio 2016 Olympics Games. It will finish on Saturday with the CAA Grand Prix/Warri Relays.
Enthusiastic Sapele residents are already looking forward to a highly competitive championships.
Sapele is the home of some athletic greats like Endurance Ojokolo, Olusoji Fasuba and fast rising Divine Oduduru. Others are Endurance Abinuwa and Okagbare.
Though Okagbare is the hottest star on parade, many others from across Europe and the United States are also in to fight for places in the Team Nigeria to Rio.
Seye Ogunlewe, the reigning 100m champion, strong challengers for his title like Oduduru, Obinna Metu and Ogho Egwero are all in Sapele ready to burn the tracks as it were.
Okagbare is expected to win the women 100m, but competition for the second and third and the relays team will be strong between Gloria Asumnu, Khadija Suleiman, Jennifer Madu and a host of others athletes.
The women’s 400m will also be interesting. Patience Okon-George is the national leader this season, but she will face stiff competition from Margret Bamigbose, Sade Abugan, Ekundayo Sogbesan, Ibukun Maiyegun, Omolara Omotosho and others.
The CAA Grand Prix and Warri Relays will equally be exciting with South Africa, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya and others sending in their best teams.
Yussuf Alli, the technical manager of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), is excited about the 2016 championships
“This is the biggest turnout of local and foreign based athletes in the history of the championships. We have over 40 athletes from Europe and America alone, this is massive, am happy this is taking place in Sapele Township Stadium because the track is very fast and the people are athletics friendly,” he said.
Alli on behalf of AFN thanked the Delta State Government through the state sports commission and Seplat Petroleum for their support that made the trial possible.
The AFN President Solomon Ogba had earlier admitted that the national trials was formerly meant to be jettisoned owing to paucity of funds.
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