An athletics coach and Statistical Analyst in the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Olalekan Soetan, has advocated the celebration and wide publicity for qualified athletes in Nigeria.
Soetan made the call, on Monday, in comments published by the AFN media platform monitored by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), in reaction to the qualification of Favour Ofili for the Tokyo summer Olympic games.
NAN reports that Favour Ofili broke the African record in the women’s 200m indoors event at the SEC Indoor Championships, Fayetteville, USA, on Saturday.
The 18-year-old ran 22.75s to break the 22.80s African record set by Ivorian Murielle Ahouré at the NCAA Division 1 Championships in March 2009.
Soetan said it was time for the media to be loud about Nigerian athletes’ achievements and progress.
“This is the tipping point we all have been waiting for, Athletics in Nigeria is on a big rise. Let’s give this young woman and others, who have met Olympics automatic qualifying standard already, and many more who are striving to do so, more publicity,” he advised.
The coach noted that Ofili was fifth in 400m women at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Argentina, stressing that with the African record in 200m Indoor women, she was now number fifth on the World Athletics U20years 200m Indoor women’s list.
“The most amazing thing about her 22.75s Olympics qualifier in 200m is that she achieved it in just three races in 200m Indoor, her only three races individually in her US collegiate career.
“ And this ranks her 58 on WA All Time list in 200m Indoor women. Other women from Nigeria, Regina George (former record holder) and GOAT Blessing Okagbare, currently ranked 151 and 159 respectively.
“The likes of Allyson Felix of USA, Olympics champion in 200m and arguably the most decorated female athlete of all time currently ranks 17th,” he noted.
Soetan further said that Ofili was discovered at the Youth Games in Ilorin, in 2017, where she ran 100m, 200m unsuccessfully.
According to him, Ofili’s versatility in running from one race to another, especially in the relays, she helped her teams won, was what drew the attention of AFN scouts at the games.
“It further proves that young talented athletes can be discovered four years to the Olympics and make it to the games.
“ Ofili had made statements with her African games silver in 400m women in 2019, her semi final effort at Doha World Athletics championships in 2019 (youngest competitor at that championship) and her 22.75s 200m Indoor.
“The automatic qualifier for 200m women Tokyo 2021, 5th on WA U20years All Time list, 58th amongst seniors and African record holders, really are loud enough for nurturing at the right ages and early exposure to international competitions,” he said.