Praise Idamadudu… A New Ogunkoya Is Born



For years, Falilat Ogunkoya-Omotayo was Nigeria and indeed Africa’s foremost quarter-miler; setting records as if there were no tomorrow.

Among her numerous achievements as an athlete were the bronze medal she won for Nigeria at Atlanta ‘96 Olympic Games, where she ran a personal best and African record of 49.10 sec in the 400m, which, till today, stands the twelfth fastest of all time.

She was among the celebrated athletes at Jo’burg ’99 All African Games in South Africa, where she won a gold medal in the 400m. Before then, Ogunkoya picked a silver medal in the 200m at Nairobi ‘87 All Africa Games as well as silver in the 400m at Harare ’95.

Since Ogunkoya’s retirement from the track, Nigerian coaches have been searching for a possible replacement. The long wait may have ended, if the performance by home-girl, Praise Oghenefejiro Idamadudu, at the just concluded All Nigeria Open Athletics Championship in Warri, Delta State, is anything to go by.

Idamadudu, a junior athlete, was the cynosure of all eyes at the Warri City Stadium on Friday evening, when she outclassed US-based star, Gloria Asumnu, to win women 200m title.

Asumnu had won the 100m title on the opening day of the championship in the absence of ‘injured’ Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor, and was looking forward to make it a double in the 200m.

But a resilient Idamadudu proved too difficult a nut to crack, winning the race in 23.48 sec ahead of the US-based Asumnu, who was second 23.53 sec, while Ngozi Onwumere placed third in 23.74 sec.

Idamadudu enjoyed enormous support from fans, who rooted for her. She is from the Urhobo, where the trials were held.

To Coach Tobias Igwe, arguably Nigeria’s finest indigenous athletics tactician, the feat recorded by the home-girl (Idamadudu), in the 200m is a big achievement for the nation’s athletics.

“For a long time, I have not witnessed an astonishing race by any Nigerian athlete,” Toblow told The Guardian yesterday from the High Performance Centre in Port Harcourt, where he is preparing Team Nigeria young athletes for the fast approaching Commonwealth Games in Samoa.

The fifth Commonwealth Youth Games will take place on the Pacific island nation of Samoa from September 5-11, and Idamadudu is one of the athletes Toblow is banking on to haul medals for Team Nigeria.

Over 1000 young Commonwealth athletes aged 14-18 will represent their country and compete for 107 gold medals in nine sports over five days in Samoa.

Coach Toblow, who produced the like of Henry Amike, Mary Onyali-Omagbemi, Innocent Ebunike, the Ezinwa brothers (Davidson and Osmond), Uchenna Emedolu, Hairat Bakare, Clement Chukwu and a host of others, said that he was excited to see his local programme produced another star in the making.

“For long, we have been experimenting and over depending on foreign-based athletes,” Toblow said. “By so doing, we neglected the home-based athletes we have in abundance back home. I am happy our home-based stars are seizing the stage gradually. I am particularly excited for the performance by Idamadudu. She is a 400m athlete and I see her stepping into the shoes of Falilat Ogunkoya in the nearest future. She is using the 200m as build up in her 400m career,” the coach said.

The athlete (Idamadudu) could not believe after dusting her US-based challenger, Asumnu and others to win the 200m title on Friday, running a Personal Best time in the process.

“I never expected to win the 200m because all the other athletes who ran the race are my seniors. I never expected that the title would be mine. For me to defeat a foreign based athlete shows that the training I have been doing is not a waste,” Idamadudu added.

At the 12th African Junior Championships held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, three months ago, Idamadudu won a gold medal for Team Nigeria in a time of 23.76s.

Another major upsets recorded at the 2015 All Nigeria Open Athletics Championships in Warri, was the emergence of another junior athlete, Peter Tega Odele, as the new 200m national champion.

He beat old timers, Obinna Metu and Ogho-Oghene Egwero to the men’s 200m title. While Odele won the race in 20:47 seconds, Metu and Egwero clocked 20.57 and 20. 60 respectively.

By becoming Nigeria’s fastest time over the 200m distance this year, Odele, a Business Administration student from the University of Benin, has made the qualification mark for the 2015 IAAF World Championships taking place next month in Beijing, China.

One of the favourites, Divine Oduduru, missed the race due to illness.

The other highlight of the day was in the men 400m hurdles, where the 2014 American NCCA champion, Miles UKaoma, ran 48:85 seconds to the delight of athletics officials who had waited for more than 10 years to see such a performance by Nigerian athletes in that discipline.

Coach Toblow is thrilled by the performance saying: “I see Ukaoma making it to the final in the coming IAAF World Championship in Beijing.”

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