Okowa dangles N2million on athletes for relay tickets

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Five countries set for Lagos Open

As a way of motivating Nigerian athletes for today’s final chance of getting the relay tickets to Tokyo Olympics, President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Tonobok Okowa, has dangled the sum of N2million for the four teams.

Four out of the five relay teams Team Nigeria is hoping to present at the Tokyo Olympics will get the final chance to get their tickets today at the Teslim Balogun stadium, as the nation’s track and field stars battle with their counterparts from Senegal, Zambia, Cote d’Ivoire and the Benin Republic. Three of the countries participated in the Invitational Relays at YABA TECH on Sunday, where Nigerian athletes failed to pick the relay tickets. Benin Republic was being expected in Lagos yesterday for today’s event.

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Nigerian athletes to battle Senegal, Zambia, Cote d’Ivoire and Benin Republic at Lagos Open today for relay tickets to Tokyo Olympics.<br />

Nigeria’s women’s 4x100m relay team is the only one that has provisionally qualified for the Olympics. The men’s 4x100m team, men and women’s 4x400m as well as the women’s 4x400m mixed relay team have another opportunity to join the Olympics train this afternoon.

Speaking with The Guardian yesterday at the Teslim Balogun stadium, Okowa stated that each of the relay teams that meet the required qualification time today would get an N500,000 cash reward. “I am doing this to motivate the athletes because we need the relay tickets,” the AFN boss stated.

Okowa, who later spoke at a press conference heralding the Lagos Open Athletics Championship, revealed that the AFN secretariat had forwarded all relevant documents to World Athletics (WA) regarding the Elective Congress held in Abuja on June 14 saying: “World Athletics has asked for some materials concerning the Extraordinary Congress to the Elective Congress of the AFN in Abuja and the secretary has sent everything to them.

“For now, our focus is on the relay qualification for the Olympics. We need the support of every Nigerian. We have given the athletes the pep talk, and they are in good shape for the Lagos Open.”

Meanwhile, Meet Director of Lagos Open Athletics Championship, Yusuf Alli said: “We felt they failed to get the time at the National trials at Yaba Tech after they exhausted themselves in their individual events. The athletes warmed up and got cold because there was two hours delay. We are optimistic they are well-rested now and good to go for another shot at qualifying for the Olympics.”

Apart from the Relay events, the list of events to be competed for at the Lagos Open Athletics Championship includes the 5,000 meters, 400 meters hurdles, 100 meters, 800 meters, 400 meters, and 100 meters among others.

On his part, chairman of Lagos Athletics Association and board member of the AFN, Solomon Aliu said: “It is the dream of every athlete to be at the Olympics.

The last four years have been traumatic with the various issue, and it is the athletes and coaches that suffer. That is why Nigeria is still facing this challenge of trying to qualify our relay teams for the Olympics at the dying minutes because they couldn’t participate in World Relays and some other competitions. If this crop of athletes can’t get the chance now, they may not get it again because of age.”

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