By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin City
TWO Kenyans, Simon Cheprot and Polline Wanjiku Njeru have won this year’s Okpekpe 10 kilometres race in the male and female categories respectively.
They went home with $15,000 prize money each after finishing in a record time of 29min: 48sec and 33min: 53sec respectively. The silver medals went to Ismail Juma Ballet of Tanzania who finished in a record time of 29min: 50sec and Esther Ndiema of Kenya in 33min: 55sec with a prize money of $10,000 each.
The third position went to Timothy Toroitich of Uganda at 29min: 54sec; and Buzunesh Gutalshor of Ethiopia who finished in 33min: 58sec with a prize money of $7,000 each.
The yearly marathon which is the 5th in the series also had Nigerians participating in the local category as well as indigenous participation. Adamu Shehu, Stephen Joshua and Emmanuel Jiang, all from Plateau state came first, second and third in the men race and they went home with N250,000, N100,000 and N80,000 respectively.
In the Nigeria female finishers, Plateau state born Deborah Pam, Olamide Oluwaseun Serah (Ogun state) and Elizabeth Nuhu, Nasarawa state won the first, second and third position and were given N250,000; N100,000 and N80,000 in that order as prize money.
In the indigenous category of the Okpekpe race, the host community, Raphael James and Mary Enodube won the male and female category race and were given the prize money of N150,000 each.
Speaking at the occasion, the chief host, Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo state, who commended the organizers for a successful outing, paid special tribute to the traditional ruler of Okpekpe, adding that one of the good things that have happened is that the event took place under his reign.
He urged the organisers and sponsors of the event to improve on the prize money and if possible, introduce a half marathon race in addition to the full 10 kilometre race, asserting that “Okpekpe marathon road race has come to stay”.
Oshiomhole who equally tanked security personnel for providing adequate security throughout the event, noted with mixed feelings that this year’s event was going to be his last as a sitting governor, expressing optimism however that the next governor of the state will continue to support Okpekpe race.
Also speaking, President, Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Chief Solomon Ogba, described the marathon as an event that has brought international recognition to the once rural community because of the calibre of people involved and the rating by IAAF.
While commending governor Oshiomhole for the construction of roads in Okpekpe and ensuring conducive environment for the participants, Ogba disclosed to the governor that “very soon, you will be receiving a letter from the IAAF, upgrading the Okpekpe marathon to a Silver level grade marathon.