By Ben Efe
It is taking Nigerian athletes home and abroad a great effort it seems, to shatter some of the national records that have been in existence for a decade and beyond. And in 2014 the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, AFN officials are eager to see these records, particularly in the men’s events, erased.
To this end, technical director of the AFN, Navy Commodore Omatsheye Nesiama disclosed that more financial incentives have been introduced into this year’s AFN Golden League to spur the athletes into a high gear of performances.
For instance, in the Golden League the top six finishers will earn an enhanced prize starting from N40,000 down to N5,000 for both male and female. This is aside the N2m jackpot money, which is on the table. There is also a N50,000 bonus for any athlete that breaks a national record in the course of the Golden League.
“We expect the athletes to produce high performances this year. The Golden League is focused on good performances and the athletes will score points to be eligible for the rewards at stake. Those who meet the Commonwealth Games standard that we have set will get bonus 10 points,” said Commodore Nesiama.
He added that this year’s Golden League will witness an improvement in terms of organization. This unlike in the previous years when events where at the whim of the AFN president. “The details of each Golden League event will be made public, 10 days before any leg of the league is held. This is to enable clubs/states familiarize themselves with these details to enable them plan their attendance accordingly.”
“Payments of prize monies will be made to coaches/managers of the athletes that are communicated to the AFN.
The events for this years include 100/200m, 400m, 1500m, 3000m/Steeplechase, 400m hurdles, high jump, long jump, shot put, 4x100m and 4x400m for the women, while the men will compete in 100/200m, 400m, 5,000m, 110m hurdles, triple jump, high jump, javelin, shot put, 4x100m and 4x100m.
Some of the national records that will be gaping at the athletes this season include Chioma Ajunwa’s 7.12m women long jump set since 1996. Ajayi Agbebaku’s 17.26m in the men’s triple jump set in 1983, Williams Erese’s 13.42 seconds set in the 110 hurdles since 2003. Others are Olusoji Fasuba’s 9.85 seconds men 100m, Francis Obikwelu’s 200m mark 19.84 seconds.
The men’s 400m record of 44.17 held by Innocent Egbunike since 1987, there is also Henry Amike’s 48.10 second in the 400m hurdles. Chima Ugwu’s 20.26m shot put established in the year 2000, Pius Bazighe’s 1999 javelin record of 81.08m and indeed others waiting for the athletes to crack and whether they can take a shot at these marks and surpass will be an interesting development.
Commodore Nesiama stated that while the Golden League is on, priority will be given to athletes who have potential to medals at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
“We are going to focus on medal potential athletes in our process of team selection,” he said.
The standards set are for athletes to qualify for inclusion into the last phase of selection for the Commonwealth Games team. Some of the medal potential athletes are currently in camp in Abuja in preparation for the Games scheduled to hold from July 23 to Aug. 3 in Scotland.