Okowa salutes athletes, coaches, AFN board for making Nigeria proud in Bahamas

President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Tonobok Okowa, has hailed athletes, coaches and board members, who made possible the success of the country’s relay team at the 2024 World Athletics Relays in the Bahamas.

Okowa, who marked his birthday on Sunday back home, deemed Team Nigeria’s four tickets won in the Bahamas a gift to commemorate the occasion.

Nigerian athletes showed signs of what was to come on the first day of the World Athletics Relays in Bahamas, when they won two tickets. They finished the task on Sunday night, picking two more tickets in the 4x100m relay of the men and women’s categories—after initially failing on Saturday night.

The feat means the men’s team will be returning to the Olympics since Beijing 2008, while the women are guaranteed their ninth consecutive appearance.

“I am so glad our athletes got the four tickets in Bahamas,” Okowa told AFN Media after the men’s 4x100m, comprising Udodi Onwuzurike, Ekanem Emmanuel, Alaba Akintola and Karlington Anunagba picked the ticket to the Games.

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

The women opened the door of fortune, when the team led by 200m indoor and outdoor record holder, Favour Ofili, punched the ticket to Paris.

Tobi Amusan—World Record holder in the 100m hurdles, could not make the trip to the Caribbean nation, but Ofili filled her void effectively, as she ran the race of her life in the second leg to push Nigeria into a great position complemented by reigning National Sports Festival double sprint champion, Tima Godbless, anchoring home in first position (42.71) ahead of Switzerland, who picked the second automatic ticket in the third qualifying heat.

Unarguably, the women inspired the men who had to run without two of the country’s best sprinters at the competition—Ashe Favour and Godson Brume. 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.

In France, the women will hope to better than the two podium finishes they have had in 16 years—a bronze medal in 1992, and silver in 2008. The men can at least celebrate their return to the biggest global sporting party, as the quartet of Onyeabor Ngwogu, Obinna Metu, Chinedu Oriala and Uchenna Emedolu did not make it beyond the first heat at the 2008 Olympics.

Speaking further on the achievements by the athletes, coaches and AFN board, Okowa credited determination in the face of challenges.

“In anything we do today, we have to put God first. Despite the fact that things are hard, 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,” the AFN president stated.

He continues; “Nigerians saw what we did at the last African Games in Ghana. Our next step will be Cameroon for the African Senior Championships. 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 5/5. But the AFN needs fund to achieve its dream of making a podium finish at the Paris Olympics,” Okowa said.

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