Delta State was usually busy through last week. The epicenter was the Warri City Stadium where the maiden Africa Youth Athletics Championships ran its full course.
There weren’t any untoward developments for the cynics to celebrate. But rather those who are genuinely concerned about athletics development in Africa and Nigeria in particular thumped their chests for a job well done. Though organisation was not anywhere near perfect, there is a note book full of misidentifies, but it was more like “all is well that ends well”.
Twenty countries including Nigeria were in attendance with South Africa, an African athletics power house, being a noticeable absentee. But that did not take the shine of the championships as Nigeria dominated the sprints, Egypt the field, while Kenya and Ethiopia canceled themselves out in the long distance races. During the course of the championships, tongues wagged on the true ages of some of the athletes presented by virtually all the participating countries.
“Age-cheating is like doping. And I know in my mind that some of the athletes who participated in the championships are not under-17,” argued a Zimbabwean coach.
After all said and done, everyone agreed that a magnificent competition was held and Nigerian athletes took most of the shine. This is on the foot of questions asked by Egypt as they won the girls 100m hurdles and the long jump, while Gambia won the boys 400m and relay medley. These are events dominated by Nigerian athletes over the years in Africa.
Divine Ejovwoko-Oghene Oduduru and Deborah Adewale won a sprint double. In the boys 100m, Oduduru ran a heartwarming 10.78 seconds and in the 200m, he clocked 21.56secs, not too bad for a boy of 17. But it was clear that this boy needs a lot of training as he was obviously under great deal of strain as he raced to the finish line.
Adewale proved too strong for the girls who rubbed shoulders with her. She returned 11. 87 seconds in the 100m, while she finished 24.13 seconds in the 200m. Compatriot Cecilia Francis was the only girl that ran 11 seconds in the girls race.
Another Nigerian athlete that stole the show was Ofonime Edidiong Odiong in the girls 400m with 54.46 seconds. Odiong, a product of the Cross River grassroots programme, impressed the Warri crowd with her running methods unlike the others who demonstrated that they still needed quality coaching.