Olympic trials: Drama, complaints as athletes reject results

’Tosin Oluwalowo

24 June 2021

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The just-concluded Athletics Federation of Nigeria’s National Trials at the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos from June 17 to 20 has been shrouded in controversies and complaints days after the completion of the trials.

The trials, which were held to select Nigeria’s representatives at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, had both overseas-based and local athletes in attendance.

On Wednesday, long jumper Mercy Abire said the AFN recorded a wrong distance for her in Sunday’s long jump final.

“I just saw this result online and I beg to differ with the score attached to my name. I jumped a PR of 6.52m at the last Olympics trials at Yabatech which is significantly different from what is being attributed to me. I am using this medium to appeal to the concerned body to kindly correct this error. Thanks,” Abire wrote on Facebook.

At the long jump final on Sunday, which was attended by our correspondent, it was announced that Abire had jumped a Personal Best of 6.52m to place third, behind Ese Brume and Ruth Usoro, who jumped 6.64m and 6.56m respectively.

This was also posted on the AFN official Facebook page.

The official result, which was sent to World Athletics and posted on their website, however had a distance of 6.44m recorded against Abire’s name, while the distances for Brume and Usoro remained.

Also, on day one of the trials, both the finals of the men’s 100m and the women’s 100m ended controversially.

In the men’s 100m, sprinter Seye Ogunlewe was announced to have finished fourth behind Enoch Adegoke (10.00secs), Usheoritse Itsekiri (10.07secs) and Okeoghene Brume (10.09secs) in 10.11secs. This was also reflected in the AFN’s official results, which were made available to our correspondent.

Ogunlewe went to the officials, asking to see the photo finish, claiming he didn’t finish fourth, and it was discovered he finished third. While the position was changed, his time was left unchanged, with Brume’s time changed to 10.13secs at fourth.

There was more drama in the women’s 100m final, as Blessing Okagbare went into jubilation after the time board showed a time of 10.62secs – the fastest time run by any woman alive.

Her joy was however short-lived, as it was discovered the wind reading was 2.7m/s, which was more than the legal wind allowed by the World Athletics.

On the second day of the trials, there was more embarrassment, as Tobi Amusan who was hoping to break Gloria Alozie’s African record of 12.44secs in the women’s 100m hurdles, was left weeping after discovering the electronic timer didn’t work at the end of her race.

The manual timer used for the race recorded a time of 12.3secs.

Silver medallist in the women’s 4x400m at the 1996 Olympics, Fatima Yusuf-Olukoju, in a post on Facebook, accused the AFN of perpetrating fraud by trying to validate Okagbare’s wind-assisted time.

“Our track and field has been hijacked and turned into a jamboree. They perpetrate fraud from the get go to make it as seems Blessing’s 10:62 was legal. What they did was give her a false celebration and ignored the rules put in place to identify legal or wind aided times,” she wrote.

“Stop manipulating results and be honest. We have lost credibility and I am ashamed of my federation. You all did this young lady who is having an awesome season a disservice. We all need to condemn these people for their unethical behaviour.”

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