BY ONOCHIE ANIBEZE
The city of Warri will be exciting to sports fans today when athletes from over 20 African countries hit the track and field of the Warri Township Stadium in search of honours in the maiden edition of The Africa Youth Athletics Championships.
First class facilities have been provided for the athletes. It is the time for them to display the potential in them. In the Nigerian team are talents that the Athletics Federation of Nigeria hopes can become Olympic athletes. And prominent among them is a school boy that Brown Ebewele, a former national Decathlon champion and now a veteran coach has described as an ‘’Antelope.’’
Seigha Porbeni, another veteran in track and field was the first to comment on the emerging star and said that ‘’a great potential who could take the sprints by storm is born.’’
His name is Divine Oduduru. He was born on October 7, 1996, few months after Chioma Ajunwa won Nigeria’s first Olympic gold medal in Atlanta ’96, the same venue where Mary Onyali and Falilat Ogunkoya picked bronze each in 200m and 400m respectively.
Divine ran 10.51 seconds at the Olokoya Under 18 competition last month. It was one of the few races he did on tartan tracks. He still trains on a hard surface in Asaba where he goes to school at West End secondary School. But before arriving Warri here with the Nigerian team Divine was subjected to high training on the tartan tracks of University of PortHacourt.
’’He will likely lower his time here in Warri,’’ Porbeni said of the 17-year-old.
’’Some of our seniors are running 10.3 and 10.4 and if at this youth level he is running 10.5 with a possibility of running 10.4 soon, it means that a star is in the making,’’ AFN President, Solomon Ogba said.
’Divine has become slightly aware of the previews on him but he is still taking it easy, hoping to up the ante after writing his GCE Exams.
’’I’m still in secondary school now. After writing my exams I will concentrate on the tracks and I hope to return good times,’’ he told this reporter at the Excel Hotel base of the Nigerian team.
’’I hope to be better. Right now, I train on hard surface and only train on tartan track from time to time when I go to places like Oghara. There’s no tartan track in Asaba where I live and go to school. When I leave school I’ll run better, God willing.’’
He was excited that he got a mention in a national daily and took a copy of Vanguard last Monday, hoping to show it to his parents. The story was on Porbeni identifying him as a good potential. Warri may earn him more media attention if he wins here.
Ismaila Yusuf is another athlete that the vice President of AFN, Jide Josaih said would also become a star.
’’Watch out for him in the 200m,’’ Jide said.
The games begin today and the fans will have a lot to cheer till Sunday when the championships will end.