Nigeria’s stock continued to rise yesterday at the on-going African Games in Morocco, where the country’s position has risen from the lowly ninth of the third day to fourth. The athletes have also been buoyed by the Federal Government, which has been splashing cash to winners in appreciation of their efforts.
Sprint hurdler, Tobilola Amusan started the gold rush yesterday when she defended her 100 meters hurdles title in a blistering 12.68 seconds, which broke her compatriot, Glory Alozie’s 12.74 seconds Games’ record set in 1999 in Johannesburg.
In the javelin event, Kelechi Nwanaga also successfully defended her title with a throw of 55.88 meters and in the process beat two South Africans.
In the 4x100m relays, it was a mixed fortune for Nigeria as the women won the gold, while the men played second fiddle to Ghana.
The women, led by Blessing Okagbare, ran 44.16 seconds to win ahead of South Africa (44.61) and Kenya (45.44), while the men ran 38.59 seconds behind Ghana (38.30) with South Africa coming third in 38.80 seconds.
In the 400m final, both the women and the men made it to the podium with Favour Ofili (51.68) winning the silver behind the pre-race favorite. The other Nigerian in the event, Patience Okon-George finished fifth (52.18).
For the men, Nigeria’s Chidi Okezie won the bronze medal (45.61). Yesterday witnessed cash rain on the athletes and their officials when the Federal Government fulfilled its promise to reward outstanding performers in Morocco.
In all, 58 athletes and four officials got cash awards ranging from $3, 000 for gold, $2, 000 for silver and $1,500 for bronze medalists.
Gold medalists in team events got $6000, bronze got $4,500, while the badminton mixed team players shared $18,000.On Tuesday at the Games Village, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Mr. Olusade Adesola thanked the team for their brilliant performance at the Games.
“As a Ministry, we shall continue to fulfill the commitment of the government to each and every one of you in line with the approval of Mr. President.”
The Permanent Secretary also restated the government’s commitment to the welfare of athletes stating that no single athlete or participant representing Nigeria is being owed any benefits or allowances.
“My attention was drawn to a report in an online medium in which an athlete appealed to the Honourable Minister to pay their entitlements. Those of you who have participated in international competitions since my coming on board in 2018 will attest to it that the ministry under my watch is not owing any athlete, rather we have gone further to support athletes on their medical needs, supported athletes with scholarships grants but having difficulty in meeting up with the front end costs. Through the Nigeria Olympic Committee and other Federations, we have secured scholarships for over 20 athletes.”
“I, therefore, wish to appeal to our athletes to stop peddling untrue information on the position of government towards us”.
Mr. Olusade also restated that the 12th African Games would serve as a qualifying event for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (with few exceptions) in Athletics, Badminton, Canoe/Kayak, Cycling, Handball, Judo, Swimming, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Tennis, Beach Volleyball, and Weightlifting.
He congratulated the gold medalists in the mentioned sports who he said have already booked their spots at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The first batch of awards was for athletes who won laurels in Taekwondo, Table Tennis, Badminton, Gymnastics, Karate, Athletics, Basketball, and Weightlifting.
The next awards will be announced as the athletes conclude their events.