South Africa’s Caster Semenya (C) runs to qualify for Women’s 800m final at the African Senior Athletics Championship at Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, Delta State in Midwestern Nigeria, on August 4, 2018. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
They say nothing happens by chance. The belief is that every successful ending to any event must have been preceded by meticulous planning and programmed sequence of events made to happen in a conducive atmosphere.
And so, it was at the just-concluded Asaba 2018 African Senior Athletics Championships, which has been acknowledged as a good advertisement for sports.Coming just a few weeks after the Russia 2018 World Cup, which was acknowledged as one of the best managed in the history of the competition yet, there were fears that Asaba 2018 would find it difficult to satiate the appetites of a sports loving African community that just tasted the richness of the Coupe du Mundial. There were also fears that the facilities would not be ready for a competition as big as the African Senior Athletics Championships, which not only brings the biggest sportsmen and women together in one city, but also attracts the leaders of the sector from across the world to the host town for five days.
But all the fears were dispelled one after the other as the competition set off. Although there were a few glitches here and there at the beginning of the competition, the Asaba 2018 African Championships at the end on August 5 proved that people could record resounding success when they rise in one accord to work for a common good. The five-day event saw Kenya emerging overall champions with 11 gold, seven silver and two bronze medals, followed by South Africa with nine gold, 14 silver and eight bronze medals. Team Nigeria was third with nine gold, five silver and six bronze medals.
However, in the area of records set, the Asaba 2018 championship took a shot at athletics history book with a total of 15 records tumbling in the city, which is reputed as the gateway to eastern part of the country.First to set the marks rolling was South African female athlete, Caster Semenya, who set a new South African record in the 400 metres with her 49.96 seconds finish in the race. She also set a Championship Record (CR) in the 800m, where she ran 1:56.06 seconds.
In the long jump for men, a South African athlete, Rushwai Samaai set a Championship Record (CR) of 8.45m, just the Rainbow nation also got a new championship record in the 4×100 metres with the quartet of Akani Simbine, Simon Magakwe, Emile Erasmus and Henriche Bruintjies set a Championship Record (CR) by running a time of 38.25 seconds to win the gold medal.
Nigeria was the undisputed champion in the men and women’s 400 metres when the country had a virile athletics culture, but she has since been overtaken by South Africa and Kenya, who have dominated the event in the last five years. And so, it was no surprise that Kenya’s men won the gold medal in the 4x400m with the quartet of Aron Koechi, Aiphas Kishoyian, Janed Momanyi and Emmanuel Korir setting a Championship Record (CR) of 3.00.92.Another Kenyan athlete, Mathew Sawe set a National Record (NR) of 2.30m in the High Jump, while his compatriot, Beatrice Chepkoech set a Championship Record (CR) of 8.59.88 seconds in the 3000m Steeplechase.
For Team Nigeria, the Asaba 2018 championship was a major achievement, despite finishing third in the overall medals table.United States-based female Hammer thrower, Temilola Ogunrinde grabbed a silver medal and set a new national record (NR) of 67.39m. It was her first competition for Nigeria.18-year-old Ogunrinde, a student of the University of Minnesota, who was born and brought up in the U.S., was excited with her feat in Asaba.
Morocco’s Soukaina Zakour, who won the gold in the Hammer Throw for women, equally set a National Record (NR) of 68.28m, while Republic of Congo Jennifer Bat also set National Record (NR) of 66.43m in the same even. The Hammer Throw for women recorded three New Records by three athletes from different countries.
In the Shot Put for men, Chukwuebuka Enekwachi of Nigeria set a Championship Record (CR) of 21.08m.
Ethiopian athlete, Yahualeye Beletew set a National Record (NR) of 1.31.47 in the 20km Walk for women.In the Triple Jump for men, Hugues Fabrice Zango of Burkina Faso set a National Record (NR) of 17.11m.And in the 4x400m relay for women, Zambia set a National Record (NR) of 3.38.18.In the 400m, Algeria Abdeimalik Lahoulou set a National Record (NR) of 48.47sec, while Kenya’s Elijah Manangoi set a Championship Record (CR) of 3:35.20 in the 1,500m for men.
Nigeria female long jumper, Ese Brume, won a gold medal with a leap of 6.83 meters to equal her season’s best recorded earlier this year in Jamaica.Elated by the performance of the athletes and the facilities the competition has given to Nigeria, former Ogun Sports Commissioner and member of the Local Organising Committee (LOC), Bukola Olapade praised the Delta State government for ‘showing Nigerian youths that where there is a will there is a way.”
Olopade, whose company, Nilayo Sports Management, handled the marketing and branding of the championship, was particularly thrilled that for one week Nigeria was in the news for all the right reasons.He was thrilled that one of the best administrators in Nigeria’s history, Solomon Ogba was at the centre of an event, which turned out to be the envy of the country’scritics, who never saw anything good about Nigeria.He said: “Chief Ogba was able to prove that when it comes to athletics, nobody beats him. I must give him credit for taking on the responsibility to host and organize the first of such international track and field event in Nigeria’s history.”
Olopade also praised Governor Ifeanyi Okowa for his vision and commitment in making sure that the Stephen Keshi Stadium was ready for this championship. He said: “While we continue to celebrate the athletes for their performances and records, we know that this couldn’t be possible without the provision of facilities.”“The most obvious intention of the Delta State government in hosting the event may have been to showcase the capital city and its environs as a possible future tourist destination in West Africa, because the opportunity the event presented was perfect.
“Many of the athletes had a ball, dazed by the energy and vibrancy of the Asaba people and their environment. They won’t forget their experiences in a hurry and cannot even wait to come back and experience, once again, the exuberance of the Nigerian people. The pictures and reports out of Asaba 2018 are unique for those that can look beneath the minor hitches.”