By Patrick Anaso
Awka, June 18, 2015 (NAN) The maiden AFN/Anambra Golden League athletics meet has come and gone but not without its excitements and disappointments.
The event, which was held at the Rojenny Stadium, Oba, Idemili South Council area, near Onitsha, was staged from June10 to June 11.
The event was designed for the home-based athletes to garner points to be able to qualify to take part in the trials for major continental and World Games. These are events like the upcoming 11th All Africa Games in Congo and the 15th IAAF World Championships in China.
The home-based had been given the set points’ target they must attain to be eligible to take part in the trials – the Cross Rivers/AFN All Nigeria Athletics Championships to be staged in Calabar.
According to Omatseye Nesiama, the Technical Director of the AFN, the Golden League, which had been planned in three-part series, had been designed to also keep the locals in top shape to be able to fight for slots in the National athletics team to the Africa Games and the World Championships.
The Africa Games would hold from Sept. 4 to Sept. 19 in Congo Brazzaville, while the IAAF World Athletics Championships will hold in Beijing, China from Aug. 22 to Aug 30 at the `Birds Nest’ in Beijing.
At the Anambra Golden League meet, no fewer than 800 athletes from across the country competed in 20 events, including, track and field events featuring the sprints, middle and long distances races as well as the field events like discus, shot put, triple jump, high jump, and the javelin, all in the men and women categories.
More than anything else, the event provided an opportunity to inaugurate the newly installed Anambra Government-funded N80 million 8- lane tartan tracks at the Rojenny Stadium, venue of the meet, by Gov. Willie Obiano of Anambra.
“This facility at the moment is rated one best athletics ground in the entire South East,’’ noted a former national sprint sensation, Uche Emedolu, who expressed delight at installation of the facility.
Such competition was much awaited to improve as well as brighten the chances of Anambra athletes to fight to be eligible to make the list of the National team to major national and international competitions.
The disappointment, however, was that Anambra, the host state for the event did not feature prominently in the top ranking positions on the medals tables in virtually all 20 events competed for at the meet.
In the 100 meters men, Nicholas Imhoarapamhe of National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Divine Oduduru of Delta and Peter Odele of University of Benin ((UNIBEN) finished in the top three positions — first, second and third – respectively
While Imhoarapamhe posted 10.23 second for the top spot, Oduru, returned in 10.37 for the second position, while Odele clocked 10.50 seconds to place third.
In women’s 100 metres dash, Isoken Igbinosun of NSCDC led the pack, breasting the tape in 11.68 seconds; Nkem Ezeala (Customs) returned in 11.72 while Cecillia Francis (Lagos) was third in a time of 11.77 seconds.
In men’s high jump, Theadus Okpara (Customs), cleared 2.05 metres to win the top place, Obiora Arinze (Defenders) was second, having jumped 2.05 metres and Kingsley Ayebide (Delta) jumped 2.00 metres for a third place.
The consolation for Anambra came from Anulika Aniefuna, who was placed third with a throw of 23.45 metres in the Hammar event for women.
The event was won by Rita Modili (Delta) with a throw 41.27 metres and Celestina Efobi (NSCDC) was placed second, having thrown 25.88 metres for a third spot.
In men’s 1,500 metres, Hamadja soudi (Cross River) breasted the tape in 3.55:69 seconds ahead of Charles Musa (Defenders) who returned in 3.59.44, while Romany Dessidji (Cross posted 4.03. 24 minutes for the third position.
Lydia Micheal and Elizabeth Nuhu both of Customs were first and second with 17.56.05 and 18. 26.62 minutes respectively while Rachel Peter of UAM was third with 18.56.93 in the women’s 5,000m race.
The President of AFN, Solomon Ogba, has since after the meet, criticised the timing and distances returned at the meet, describing the performance as poor.
He even went on to appeal to the coaches to step up their game by working hard on their athletes to improve on their performances.
Meanwhile, some of the athletes of Anambra origin attributed their poor performance to a lack of sponsorship and support by the state government.
Clement Onejeme, a discuss thrower said he could not have performed better than he did because the team had not been sponsored to any championship since the beginning of the year.
Onejeme also said equipment was not in place for them to train with. He hopes that their performance could become better with the installed standard facility.
“We only gave what we have, nobody has bothered to find out how we have been faring but now that we have hosted this event, maybe attention can shift to our direction; we need support to perform well,” he said.
Another athlete, Grace Anigbata thanked a private sports foundation in the state that had helped the team to feature at some championships and called on Government to encourage the athletes.
Anigbata also pledged that the athletes would give their all, if well empowered financially and morally whenever they performed well at national and international competitions. “Government ought to reward excellence.
“Government has to take care of our welfare so that we don’t lose the best among us to the other state that are ever ready poach them and offer rich rewards,” she said.
Coaches in the state had also called for more competitions and sponsorships, so that athletes could save the state of its fading glory in sports.
According to Bonny Akunna, a state Table Tennis coach, the state has not participated in any organised events since January.
Akunna lamented that budding talents in the state were not being well-harnessed.
Emedolu said the new tartan tracks has firmly placed Anambra among the comity of states with modern athletics facilities, even though the state is still deficient in many sporting facilities.
Now that the facility is in place, it is expected that administrators in the state would use the success and challenges to reposition sports in Anambra State.
The administrators should also see the welfare of athletes and provision of adequate facilities as needed panacea toward empowering the youth. (NAN)