NSF: Edo tops track and field medals table after Day-1

Host Edo state won two gold medals to lead the medals table as track and field got to a brilliant start on Friday at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin.

The duo of Fadekemi Olude (1:40.05) and Dele Elegbede (1:42.16) gave Edo state their first gold medals of the Festival by winning the women and men’s 20km walk respectively.

Delta state, through Ibrahim Baba (46.39m), won gold in the men’s hammer event while the fast improving Utitofon James (48.36m), expectedly, won the women’s discus event.

Rivers State picked its first gold of the Festival through sprint hurdler Grace Aiyemoba who crossed the finish line in 13.65s seconds to win the 100m hurdles, while Oyeniyi Abejoye picked the men’s 110m hurdles (13.79s) for Lagos’ first gold medal of the competition.

Rose Akusho completed the gold medal haul for the opening day, running 17:13.95s to win the 5000m event for Plateau state.

The second day of athletics will witness two blockbuster races, the men and women’s 100m final. In the latter, Grace Nzubechi Nwokocha will be the overwhelming favourite to win following her very dominant displays in the Nigerian athletics scene since 2020.

The Delta State athlete has won all available local events to date and raced to a scorching 11.09s personal best last month. The time remains the fastest ever run on Nigerian soil by a home-based athlete in over two decades and the fastest since Blessing Okagbare ran 11.02s to win the 100m gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games trials in Sapele.

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Nwokocha will have the trio of Ese Brume (11.69s), Praise Ofoku (11.67s) and Joy Udo-Gabriel (11.66s) challenging for the silver and bronze medals for Team Delta and Team Lagos respectively with Udo-Gabriel, who raced to a new 11.34s personal best less than two weeks ago at the Making of Champions Grand Prix in Lagos ahead in the battle for silver.

It is going to be a titanic battle for the three podium places in the men’s version with no clear favourite for the gold.

Defending champion Ushoritse Itshekiri is back to defend his title and was impressive in the heats, running 10.38s, the second-fastest time behind Alaba Akintola (10.32s) in qualifying for the semi-finals which hold today before the final.

Veteran sprinter and two-time national champion Ogho-Oghene Egwero and Favour Ashe who raced to a surprise 10.17s personal best last month in Lagos and the pre-Festival national leader Enoch Adegoke of Edo state are all favoured to reach the final later today.

The highlight of the morning session on the second day of athletics will be the men and women’s 400m semi-finals.

For the men, Sikiru Adeyemi, who is the only Nigerian quarter-miler to have dipped inside 46 seconds so far this year, and the trio of Nathaniel Samson, Ifeanyi Ojeli and Orukpe Erayokan tops the list of athletes expected to make it to Sunday’s final.

In the women’s, it is increasingly looking like a battle of Akwa Ibom as the queen of the event in the absence of Favour Ofili, Patience Okon-George has returned with a bang with her 53.03s performance in one of the heats in her first race of the year to lay down the gauntlet for her ordained successor, 21-year-old Nse Uko Imaobong whose 52.07s run at the Athletics Federation of Nigeria All-Comers and Classics competition in Akure in March remains the national lead coming to the Festival. Both are expected to stroll into Sunday’s final which is already looking like a mouth-watering event.

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Also on the menu later today are the women’s Shot Put final, the men and women’s 400m hurdles final, the men’s triple jump and 10,000m finals.

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