For the first time in his career, United States-based speed star, Udodi Onwuzurike, will compete in Nigeria, as he joins other top stars to battle for ticket to represent the country in this year’s World Senior Athletics Championship in Oregon, U.S., and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.
Last year in Nairobi, Kenya, Onwuzurike represented Nigeria for the first time at the World U20 Championship, where he grabbed a gold medal in 200m, setting a new Personal Best of 20.21s in the process. His gold in the 200m was Nigeria’s second since Francis Obikwelu won it in 1996.
Now, Onwuzurike is heading to Benin City, venue of the national trials, to prove his worth as one of Africa’s rising stars to watch at the World Senior Athletics Championship in Oregon and Commonwealth Games in England.
Speaking with The Guardian yesterday while on transit in San Francisco, on his way to Lagos, his father and coach, Chris Onwuzurike, stated his son’s mission to Benin City is to secure a ticket to both the World Championship and the Commonwealth Games.
“This will be the first time Udodi will compete in Nigeria,” he said. “But I do bring him home every other year during Christmas festivities since he was six years old.”
Udodi turned 19 this year, but according to his father, he will not be competing in this year’s World U20 Championship holding in Cali, Colombia from August 2 to 6.
“His focus for now is to fly Nigeria’s flag at the World Senior Athletics Championship in Oregon, and the Commonwealth Games in England,” the father stated.
Udodi and his father are expected in Lagos this morning.
The Guardian learnt yesterday that U.S.-based female sprinter, Favour Ofili, would not be part of the national trials in Benin City.
Ofili was said to have complained of battling migraine. A source told The Guardian yesterday that Ofili, who has been in inspiring form this year, setting new national records in the 200m indoors (22.46s) and outdoor (21.96s), has been ruled out of Team Nigeria’s 100m and 200m lineup for Oregon 2022 World Championship and the Commonwealth Games.
“But she will be part of our relay team in Oregon and England,” the source stated yesterday. The chairman of Edo Sports Commission, Yusuf Alli, who is Team Nigeria’s Coordinator for the Commonwealth Games, has revealed that Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki and his Deputy, Phillip Shaibu, will be at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium to cheer the athletes throughout the national trials in Benin City.
Alli, a three-time Olympian, whose National Record (NR) of 8.27m set in 1989 is yet to be broken, also told The Guardian yesterday that Edo will hold the best ever national athletics trials.
Meanwhile, the AFN, in a statement signed by its Technical Director, Samuel Onikeku, yesterday, stated that the event will now hold June 24-26, 2022.
He said the change is necessitated by the need to accommodate all athletes who have signified interest in the championships and have met the entry standard for the event.
“As at today (Friday June 17, 2022), only the women’s 4x100m and the mixed relay teams have qualified for Oregon. The men’s 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams are yet to qualify as well as the women’s 4x400m relay team,’ Onikeku stated.
“Nigeria is ranked 16th in both events which means we are occupying the last qualification spot. This does not give us the guarantee we will still be in Oregon in those relay events.”
With the current status of our athletes worldwide, Onikeku is confident Nigeria will present teams in all five relays in Oregon and come back with at least two medals.