President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, Solomon Ogba
By Jude Okwe
Three hundred and forty-eight athletes are in Calabar for the All Nigeria/CRS Athletics Championship which begins today at the U. J Esuene Stadium. The President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, Solomon Ogba revealed Monday in Calabar that the decision to prune down the number of athletes was because the federation has raised the bar on qualification as only athletes who made A-standard were invited for the competition adding that in an Olympic year, the federation wants only the best for the country.
“We have set a standard which must be met before you come to Calabar to compete. You are going to see the best of Nigeria’s athletes. We have also raised the bar which means athletes must perform to a certain level to merit invitation to the championship.
“We are going to increase the money for all events from N1m to N2m. This jackpot (money) is for men who return a time of 9.99 seconds in the 100 meters event. We are going to use variance table to run that across. We will only give money to those athletes who deserve it, no more grants to athletes,” he said.
Ogba revealed that besides making merit the yardstick, the federation has also increased the prize money for both male and female winners for all events from N1m to N2m and that the hike is to motivate them ahead of the Olympics and bring out the best in the athletes as Nigeria looks forward to presenting the best in London.
“A lot of money is coming in this year for athletes who perform excellently. There is increase in prize money across board. The federation will spend N80m on this championship. Cross River State Government is also helping us as it has taken up some of our responsibilities,” he noted.
Cross River State Commissioner for Sports Mr. Patrick Ugbe maintained that this was the second year of the federation’s partnership with Cross River State Government in its sponsorship of the competition noting that the state has contract with athletics federation signed early last year.
The contract will last for five years, he added, and that the state was ready to continue to host the championship as all the necessary facilities and equipment have been procured by the state government to guarantee international standard and appealed to the athletes to compete in the spirit of good sportsmanship.
“We will improve our performance from the organization point of view from that of last year. We do hope and believe that we will have a wonderful performance from our athletes when they start burning the track. We have a full programme. The first event is 20 kilometres city walk for both men and women, which starts from 7a.m,” he said.