by crossriverwatch admin
As many as four reigning African champions are on parade from this Thursday through Saturday as the 68th edition of the flagship event of the Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN), the Cross River state-sponsored All Nigeria Athletics Championships are held.
Leading the cast of these reigning continental kings and queens are IAAF World Championships double medalist, Blessing Okagbare who will be aspiring to become only the second woman to win the 100m titles six times consecutively after Mary Onyali.
Okagbare, winner of the long jump title in Port Novo, Republic of Benin at the 18th African Athletics Championships two years ago will also be hoping to recreate the history she made last year in Calabar at the 67th edition of the championships by successfully completing a sprints double as well as add the long jump gold medal to it.
Also confirmed for the event that will be used to pick Nigeria’s team to next month’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland and August’s 19th African Athletics Championships in Marakech, Morocco is Africa’s reigning shot put and discus throw champions, Chinwe Okoro.
Okoro who holds the pre-championships best mark in both events (16.38m in the shot put and 57.83m in the discus throw) has become the undisputed queen of the two events following the exit of Vivian Chukwuemeka.
Sprinter Gloria Asunmnu who won her first African title in Port Novo two years ago following her gold-medal winning run in the 200m is also in Calabar to provide Okagbare with the real quality opposition in the 100m.
Triple jumper, Tosin Oke, winners of the last two African titles in the event in 2010 in Nairobi,Kenya and 2012 in Port Novo completes the list of individual African champions expected to add colour, glamour and quality to the championships.
Meanwhile Cross River state Sports Commissioner, Patrick Ugbe has declared the state’s readiness to host another world class championships.
The government of senator Liyel Imoke has been hosting the championships since 2010 and Ugbe is confident this year’s edition will be better in terms of both its technical and administrative organization.
“We have a reputation of hosting events that have served as benchmarks for other events either hosted or to be hosted by other states in Nigeria. And this is because we have a governor who is not only sports loving but one whose watchword is excellence, “ said Ugbe who revealed that the championships will also be used to test run some of the facilities that will be used for the National Sports Festival holding later this year in Calabar.
“Cross River is undoubtedly the number one state in terms of sports in Nigeria. We not only have the facilities to host world class sporting events, we are also regarded as the safest state in Nigeria. This is in addition to the fact that we are also about the cleanest state in Nigeria.”
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