Emmanuel Ifeanyi Ojeli and Patience Okon-George emerged the athletes to beat after their front running performances in the men and women’s 400m semi-finals concluded Saturday morning on Day 2 of the athletics event of the 20th National Sports Festival at the Samuel Ogbemudia stadium in Benin.
Ojeli,competing for Lagos state became the second Nigerian athlete to break 46 seconds this year as he effortlessly won the first of the three semi-final heats. He ran 45.99s to place first ahead of Okezie Chidi of Delta state (46.32s) who took the second automatic slot.
Nathaniel Samson crossed the line in 46.72s to win the second semi-final ahead of pre-race favourite, Sikiru Adeyemi (46.82s) of Oyo state.
In the third semi-final, Johnson Nnamani of Enugu state came in first (47.36s) ahead of Afam Ogbuagu of Anambra state (47.85s). Bayelsa state’s Olanrewaju Eriolowa (48.09s) and Imo’s Destiny Majemite (48.20s) complete the eight-man list for Sunday’s final.
In the women’s 400m, Okon-George proved she is still the athlete to beat after easily winning her semi-final heat with a commanding 52.79s run while Ovwighoadkebere Blessing of Bayelsa state (54.30s) and Josephine Oloye of Ondo state (54.66s) secured the remaining automatic slots for the final.
Nse Uko Imaobong was also commanding in the other semi-final heat, stopping the clock at 53.29s to win ahead of Blessing Oladoye of Lagos State (54.13s) and Opeyemi Oke of Ondo state (54.33s).
Joy Usenbor of Ondo state (54.42s) and Delta state’s Glory Patrick (54.90s) complete the line-up for the final which will be a supremacy battle between two Akwa Ibom athletes, Okon-George and Nse Uko.
Interestingly, Okon-George won on the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium track in March last year, running 51.84s in her first and final competition of 2020 and will be the overwhelming favourite on Sunday.