A total of 12 Team Nigeria athletes have been cleared to compete in the athletics event of the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympics which begins on Friday, Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) announced.
Recall that 18 athletes were disqualified over failure to meet the anti-doping testing requirements under Rule 15 of the Anti-Doping Rules for ‘Category A’ federations – with Nigeria accounting for over 55% of the number.
The report had plunged the Team Nigeria camp into disarray following the unwholesome development. However, there seems to be a glimmer of hope on the country’s medal chances, after reigning Nigeria sprint queen and 100/200m record holder, Blessing Okagbare headlined the list of athletes cleared to compete.
Okagbare who is making her fourth appearance at the games will be competing in the women’s 100m heat on Friday.
Also cleared to contest are sprint hurdler, Tobiloba Amusan who is ranked number four in the 100m hurdles; long jumper Ese Brume who tops the world list in her event coming to the games and Grace Nwokocha, the home-based sensation who clocked 11.09 seconds in March at the MOC Grand Prix in Lagos to seal her qualification for the Tokyo Games.
Others are the trio of Divine Oduduru, Enoch Adegoke and Ushoritse Itshekiri who will be competing in the men’s 100m while Oduduru will also race in the 200m, an event he holds the national record of 19.73 seconds which he set two years ago in Austin, Texas in the USA to win the NCAA gold.
Shot putter Chukwuebuka Enekwechi who made it to the event’s final at the World Athletics Championship in Doha, Qatar in 2019 is also cleared to compete.
The 4x400m mixed relay quartet of Imaobong Nse Uko, Patience Okon-George, Nataniel Samson and Ifeanyi Ojeli are also cleared to compete and will be in action on Friday in the first semifinal heat.
Prince Adeniyi Adisa Beyioku, Secretary General of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria says the athletes are in good spirits, as they are determined to return Nigeria to the podium for the first time since 2008 when Okagbare and the women’s 4x100m won Nigeria’s last medals in track and field.
Athletics accounts for 13 of the 25 medals won by the country at the games and two of the three gold medals.