Stakeholders in track and field have lambasted the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) over list of athletes that will be donning the white and green colours of Nigeria at the IAAF World Championships which begins later this month in Doha, Qatar.
The AFN last week released a list of 25 athletes that will represent Nigeria and compete for medals after fruitless trips to the last two editions in Beijing, China in 2015 and London, United Kingdom in 2017 with sprinter, Blessing Okagbare, winner of a silver (long jump) and bronze (200m) in 2013 in Moscow, Russia, leading the team.
While many are comfortable with the presence of Okagbare, sprint hurder, Tobi Amusan; shot putter, Chukwuebuka Enekwechi; sprinter Divine Oduduru; reigning African Games fastest man, Raymond Ekevwo and Ushoritse Itsekiri in the team, it is the women’s 4x100m and 4x400m teams and list of coaches that have been causing controversy.
Many of the stakeholders who spoke with newsmen queried the rationale behind having a pool of eight athletes to pick from for the 4x100m relay, while others frowned at the incredible decision by AFN to drop athletes who came third and fifth in the women’s 400m at the national trials in Kaduna and who made the trip to Rabat for the All Africa Games for athletes who came seventh and eight at the trials and who at the time were not considered good enough to make the team in the 1600 relay team to the Games.
Patience Itanyi, a former African champion in the Heptathlon (1998) is livid with the federation for sacrificing merit on the altar of friendship and nepotism.
“I still don’t understand why Amarachukwu Obi and Rita Ossai who both made the team to the African Games in Rabat were dropped for athletes they defeated at the national trials,” said Itanyi who also represented Nigeria in the long jump event at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
Itanyi also queried the rationale behind having a pool of eight athletes to choose from for the women’s 4x100m relay.
She added: “It is a no brainer that long jumper, Ese Brume who is the third fastest Nigerian over the 100m this year at 11.41 seconds and sprint hurdler, Tobi Amusan (who has done 12.49 seconds over the 100m hurdles this season) are also good sprinters and can be called upon to run instead of packing the team with 11.6, 11.7 runners. That space could have been freed for the likes of Grace Anigbata who won the triple jump titles in 2018 at the African Championships and the 2019 African Games in Rabat and Nwannaga Kelechi who also won the African title in the Javelin last year in Asaba and also in Rabat this year.”
Uzor Odigbo, a veteran journalist and a respected voice in track and field expressed similar sentiments as Itanyi and queried the list of coaches the AFN wants to take to Doha.
“I simply do not understand why we are having this number of coaches, most of the athletes, especially the truly world class amongst them will have their personal coaches with them. Blessing Okagbare, Divine Oduduru, Tobi Amusan, Chuwuebuka Enekwechi, Raymond Ekevwo and Ese Brume have attained world class status and should be allowed to have their personal coaches with them. That is the practise in saner climes. I see no reason why we should have a hurdles or jumps coach in the team,’ he argued.
Another veteran in track and field reporting, Dare Esan expressed no surprise with the list as he has been consistently telling whoever cares that the man who heads the technical committee of the federation is not fit to be there.
“I am not surprised because you can’t sow yam and expect to reap cocoyam. Sunday Adeleye is not fit to head a position as important as the technical committee of the federation. That position is meant for a trained coach and a trained officiating official. He is not either, and little wonders he has committed so many technical blunders since he assumed the position and be sure he will commit many more except something is done quickly,” said Esan who has covered the IAAF World Championships eight times and was at various times a member of the IAAF Media Study Group.