By BEN EFE
Nigerian-born Francis Obikwelu stole the show last weekend at the European Indoor Championships, when he won the 60m title right under the nose of favorite and defending champion Dwine Chambers.
The win was Obikwelu’s sixth gold medal in out door and indoor meets for Portugal since his decision to dump Nigeria in 2001, after he was neglected by Nigerian sports officials during his trying times. Obikwelu had suffered an injury after running for Nigeria at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, but he was left to his fate, while the Portugese comforted him.
And he has more than repaid Portugal, by winning several medals including the famous silver he won at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece it was Portugal’s first sprints medal at the Olympics. His latest gold perhaps would spurred the 32 year-old athlete to have a last go at the London 2012 Olympics before he finally calls it quit.
Before the gold in Paris last weekend Obikwelu contemplated retirement from athletics, when he failed to make the team to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, but because of commitment to his club Sporting Clube de Portugal, he stayed back. And the reward was the unexpected triumphant run last Sunday.
Obikwelu upset Chambers and home favourite Christophe Lemaitre to further cement his name in history of Portugese athletics. He finished 6.53 seconds to set a new national record.
“I’ve had injuries for such a long time, and to come back and win, it’s incredible.
“I’m honoured and this is a great day of joy. I was hoping to be in the top three, but I never thought I was going to win,” said Obikwelu.
He is currently the European 100m record holder with 9.86 seconds. His exploits include winning the European 100m title in 2002 and 2006.
Looking back Obikwelu would certainly not regret taking the decision to embrace Portugese citizenship. This is because all his former Nigerian colleagues have all been frustrated from track and field and even the young ones coming behind are not sure of what they want to do with their country and the sport.