Sunday Dare, the Youth and Sports Development Minister has hailed the Nigerian U-20 4x400m mixed relay team for making history at the ongoing World Athletics U-20 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya.
The quartet of Johnson Nnamani, Imaobong Nse Uko, Opeyemi Oke and Bamidele Ajayi ran a new 3:19.70 African and Championship record to become the first winner of the 4x400m mixed relay event at the championship. The feat was also Nigeria’s first medal in the championship which began on Wednesday in Kenya.
“I want to specially congratulate our U20 team for making history in Nairobi. This gold is for all Nigerians and this should serve as the perfect start the new board of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria needs to correct the ills of the immediate past and return Nigeria among the major athletics nations in the world,’ said the Sports Minister.
The 4x400m mixed relay gold is also the first relay gold medal Nigeria has won in the history of the championship and Dare is optimistic it will be the beginning of Nigeria’s dominance in ‘our area of strength’ in the sport.
“I remember how dominant we were in the early years of the championship when we dominated the sprint and quartermile events. I still vividly recall how Tina Iheagwan, Falilat Ogunkoya and Mary Onyali dominated the 100m and 200m events at the inuagural edition of the championship in Athens, Greece in 1986,” Dare recalled.
“I also remember we won the women’s 400m in successive editions (1990 and 1994). Who will forget how Francis Obikwelu became the second sprinter to win the 100m and 200m in 1996 in Sydney, Australia?,’ asked the Sports Minister who has challenged the AFN to build on the successes it will record at this championship.
“I am calling on the AFN to ensure the athletes discovered here are monitored and given the necessary encouragement to make them follow in the footsteps of their predecessors like Ogunkoya, Onyali, Ese Brume, Chioma Ajunwa and Blessing Okagbare who grew to become individual Olympic medallists for Nigeria,” he said and revealed he will be staying glued to his television to watch ‘our future champions’ as they strive to bring honour and glory to their fatherland.