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By Obi Martins Okafor
  The London Olympic Games could not have come at a better time. Recently at The African Athletics championship in Porto Novo, the Nigerian officials looked forward to a rush of medals and the athletes were favoured to win gold after their semi-final performances did not disappoint. In the first event of the day, Ajoke Odumosu established an early lead from the 200m mark during the 400m hurdles race. She held on and coasted home without much challenge to finish 54. 99 seconds. Hayat Lambarki of Morocco finished second with 55.41, while Liberia’s Rasin McIntosh placed third with 55.99. Odumosu who won at the Nairobi 2010 championships stated after the race that she was pleased with her performance and was hopeful of making an impact at the London 2012 Olympics. With such an assurance, Nigerians can’t wait to see their athletes burn the tracks of London. Equally excited was Gloria Asumnu, who had to fight off the stiff competition from compatriot, Loretta Ozoh, to clinch the women 200m gold. Asumnu powered off at the final bend, but her finishing was almost a letdown as Ozoh chased her down. They both breasted the tape at 22.93, but Asumnu took the race having dipped just as Ozoh was catching up. Noah Akwu took the bronze in the men’s 200m won by Ivory Coast’s Ben Youseff Meite with a time of 20.62 seconds. Amr Saoud of Egypt was second with 20.76, while Akwu finished 20.83. The Nigerian women 4x400m quartet put up a brave performance and set a new championships record. It was a crowing display by the team featuring Abinuwa Endurance, Omolara Omotosho, Margaret Etim and Bukky Abogunloko. They totally overwhelmed other competitors, and despite the hot chase by 400m world champion, Amantle Montsho (Botswana), there was no stopping the Nigerian girls. They finished with a record timing of 3.28.07 seconds, to improve on their ranking on the top 16 list of qualifiers for the Olympics. Botswana was second with 3.31.27, while Senegal was third with 3.31.84. The Nigerian Male athletes who also put a commanding performance looked to have booked a place for the London 2012 Olympics, but they were not shortlisted as the top 16 for the London Games by IAAF. On the field, shot putter, Vivien Chukwuemeka, trampled down her opponents to announce her return after a two-year ban. Looking fit and strong, Chukwuemeka demonstrated that her reign in the African continent was far from over when she heaved 18.86m on the fifth throw, to shatter the 18.33m African record, she established in 2006. She also booked a ticket to the London 2012 Olympics Games. Chukwuemeka was followed by a lot of compatriots into the medals podium. Chinwe Okoro (16.21m) and Omotayo Talabi (15.63m) also ensured that Nigeria took all the spoils in the shot put division. In all Nigerian athletes have shown that they are back to their best and can surpass their Beijing achievement and consequently bring back the much coveted medals back to their Fatherland.  

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This article was first published on 6th July 2012 and updated on July 10th, 2012 at 7:47 am

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