After picking four Olympics tickets in Bahamas, AFN shifts attention to Douala

After picking four Olympics tickets in Bahamas, AFN shifts attention to Douala

President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Tonobok Okowa, has described the performance of the country’s relay teams at the 2024 World Athletics Relays in Bahamas as a sign of good things to come at the Paris Olympics.

“I am so glad our athletes got the four tickets in Bahamas,” Okowa told The Guardian shortly after the men’s 4x100m, made up of Udodi Onwuzurike, Ekanem Emmanuel, Alaba Akintola and Karlington Anunagba punched their ticket to the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Okowa hinted that he stayed awake all through the night to watch and cheer the athletes to victory.

“I salute the athletes, the coaches, my board members, sports ministry officials and all those who made this victory in the Bahamas possible,” Okowa stated.

After winning two tickets on Day One of the World Athletics Relays in Bahamas, Nigerian athletes completed the job on Sunday night, picking two more tickets in the women and men’s 4x100m Relays. Both teams had missed the tickets on Saturday night.

The victory ensured the men’s team returned to the Olympics after 16 years absence, just as the women will make their ninth straight appearance at the Games.

First to secure a passage to Paris was the women’s 4x100m team, led by Nigeria’s 200m indoor and outdoor record holder, Favour Ofili.

In the absence of World Record holder in the 100m hurdles, Tobi Amusan, who could not make the trip to the Caribbean Island, Ofili ran an incredible second leg to get Nigeria into a great position with reigning National Sports Festival double sprint champion, Tima Godbless, leading the team home in first position (42.71) ahead of Switzerland who picked the second automatic ticket in the third qualifying heat.

The success by the ladies challenged the men’s team, who were without two of the nation’s best sprinters, Ashe Favour and Godson Brume.

The team of Udodi Onwuzurike, Ekanem Emmanuel, Alaba Akintola and Karlington Anunagba, who replaced Seye Ogunlewe, ensured they did not fall twice as they coasted home in second place (38.57) behind Ghana (38.29) to pick the second automatic ticket to Paris.

It will be a straight ninth appearance for the women at the Games, who had two podium appearances at Barcelona ‘92 (bronze) and Beijing 2008 (silver). It is a return to the big stage for the men since Beijing 2008, where the quartet of Onyeabor Ngwogu, Obinna Metu, Chinedu Oriala and Uchenna Emedolu failed to finish in the very first heat of the competition.

Nigeria had picked two tickets on Day One of the World Relays on Saturday, the men’s 4x400m and the mixed relay, with Chidi Okezie the hero.

For Okowa, the success in Bahamas was as a result of the board’s determination to put Nigeria on the global map at the Paris Olympics after about two decades of triumph at Atlanta ’96 Olympics.

“In anything we do today, we have to put God first,” Okowa told The Guardian. “Despite the fact that things are hard at the moment, some of my board members and I have resolved to forge ahead. There are some who are interested in finding faults in whatever we do, but God has been faithful to us. We will continue to do our best for Nigeria athletics.”

Okowa said the federation will now turn its attention to Douala, Cameroon, venue of the African Senior Championships.

He said: “We will give our athletes the best of preparation for the Paris Olympics. We will also ensure that the women’s 4x400m team gets the ticket to Paris to make it five over five. But the AFN needs funds to achieve its dream of making a podium finish at the Paris Olympics.”

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