Team Nigeria's Tosin Oke (c) Isaam Nima of Algeria (left) and Hugo Mamba of Cameroon on the podium shortly after being presented with their Triple Jump medal at the African Championships in Port Novo, Benin Republic
By Duro Ikhazuagbe
Team Nigeria returned to winning ways in continental track and field Sunday emerging the overall champions of the 18th edition of the African Senior Athletics Championships in Port Novo, Republic of Benin.
Unlike two years ago in Nairobi when the host country edged Nigeria to win, the relay quartet of Isah Saliu, Abiola Onakoya, Amaechi Morton and Saul Weigopwa ran the race of their lives in the final 4x400m men event to claim the gold that made the difference between Team Nigeria and the East Africans.
Nigerian captain, Saul Weigopwa out ran Botswana’s last leg on the curve of the home stretch to hit the finish line in 3.02: 39 secs to add the vital gold to the one the quartet of Endurance Abinuwa, Omolara Omotosho, Margaret Etim and Bukola Abogunloko (3.28:77secs) had early won to tie the country on same nine gold medals as Kenya.
Botswana got disqualified for South Africa (3.04.12secs) to profit while the bronze went to Kenya (3.04.21).
This is the first time in 12 years that Team Nigeria will be winning African Championships, after the likes of Falilat Ogunkoya, Mary Onyali etc topped the edition Senegal hosted in Dakar in 1998.
Before the race got to the wire, Gloria Asumnu had added the 200m gold to the haul of the previous day while Lawretta Ozoh who ran a photo finish with Asumnu settled for silver based on the reaction time of both athletes. Ajoke Odumosu retained her 400m hurdles effortlessly on same closing minutes of the Benin 2012.
Former Commonwealth Games champion, Vivian Chukwuemeka returned from two years in the wilderness to set a new African record of 18.86m in the women shot put event on the closing day.
Twice during the event, Delta born Chukwuemeka bettered her 18.43m African record set in Walnut, USA on April 19, 2003. Before this new record, she heaved 18.56m in her third throw after coming close in her second throw of 18.41m.
The event was an all Nigerian affair as another USA-based athlete, Chinwe Okoro, who gave Team Nigeria her first gold medal in the women’s discuss event, finished second with 16.21m while the bronze went to Omotayo Talabi (15.63m).
The victory was a personal triumph for Chukwuemeka who had protested her dope violation two years ago.
FINAL MEDALS TABLE
Gold Silver Bronze
Nigeria 10 6 5
Kenya 9 9 9
S'Africa 6 10 8
Senegal 3 1 2
Botswana 3 1 -
Algeria 2 3 2
Morocco 2 2 3
Tunisia 2 1 2
Ghana 1 2 2
CIV 1 - 1