Nigerian youth athletes beat Colombia for the U-20 World Championship

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We can do it again, okowa promises

One year after rewriting Nigerian athletics history in Nairobi, Kenya, a team of 19 local athletes and six coaches left Lagos yesterday for this year’s World Championships in Athletics U-20 in Cali, Colombia. It will be from August 2 to 6.

At the latest edition in Nairobi, Nigerian U-20 track and field athletes set a new record for the country’s participation in the event, finishing third in the medal table with an unprecedented haul of four gold medals and three made of bronze.

The four gold medals won in Nairobi are the most Nigeria has ever achieved, two more than the country has won at any edition of the championships.

The Nigerian 4x400m mixed relay team then started an unprecedented run with their historic championship record-setting performance (3:19.70 CR) on the opening day of the championship, and was followed by the gold medal for the world’s fastest under-17 quarter mileer, Imaobong Nse Uko, in the women’s 400m with a new personal best of 51.55 seconds. The win made Uko the fourth Nigerian woman to win the event after Fatimah Yusuf (1990), Bisi Afolabi (1994), and Folashade Abugan (2008).

Another gold medal from US-based sprint star Udodi Onwuzurike gave Nigeria third gold in the men’s 200m, where he also set a new personal best of 20.21 seconds. The half-lap gold was Nigeria’s second since Francis Obikwelu won it in 1996 to complete his sprint double in Sydney, Australia.

Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) President Tonobok Okowa, who led the team to the historic feat in Nairobi last year, revealed to Newslodge yesterday that the first batch of the Nigerian team left on Friday night for Colombia.

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“We couldn’t secure enough seats on one plane, so our athletes and coaches have to travel in batches. We have assembled a formidable team capable of making Nigeria proud once again,” said Okowa.

AFN head coach, former sprinter, hurdler and jumper Seigha Porbeni took the technical team to Cali, Colombia. Other trainers include Ayodele Solaja, Isiaka Saka Oluyemi, Rachael Oguntona and John Micah.

Former athlete representative on the AFN board of directors, Himah Charles, who was also part of the team, hinted yesterday that in addition to the 19 local athletes, two Nigerian stars would join them from the United States.

Newslodge also learned yesterday that sprinter Godson Brume, who is with the Nigerian team in Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games, could join the under-20 team in Colombia to compete in the 100m individual race. He is still within the U20 age category.

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