*This is the biggest turnout ever- Yussuf Alli
A first time visitor to Sapele, the oil rich serene city in Delta State need not be informed that the celebration of the mother of all sports, athletics is taking place in the city.
From Amupe Roundabout, where passengers from Benin, Lagos and other parts of the Northern or Western part of Nigeria either branch to enter the city or drop from commercial buses to take Keke, motor bike or taxi, the posters of fleet-footed African queen of track and field is in your face wherever you turn.
Okagbare draped in Nigeria’s flag is seen welcoming all to the city with smiles, beckoning on everyone to come to the Sapele Township Stadium and be part of three days celebration on the tracks.
Action begins on Thursday with the 2016 All-Nigeria Athletics Championship which serves as trial for the Rio 2016 Olympics Games and finish on Saturday with the CAA Grand Prix and Warri Relays which is taking place in Sapele this year.
Sapele residents are already salivating looking forward to a highly competitive championships, this is not surprising given the city’s strong athletics pedigree.
Sapele is the home of Endurance Ojokolo, Olusoji Fasuba and Divine Oduduru who all learnt the art of sprinting here, it is also the home of Endurance Abinuwa and Okagbare to mention a few.
Though worth the weight in gold, Okagbare is not the only star that will be on parade as many others are also in to fight for a place in the Team Nigeria to Rio and also for honour in Sapele.
Seye Ogunlewe, the reigning 100m champion, strong challengers for his title like Oduduru, Obinna Metu and Ogho Egwero are all in Sapele ready to burn the tracks as it were.
The sheer unpredictable of athletics is one of its strongest attraction, but bookmakers and athletics buffs are 100% confident that Okagbare will win the women 100m, but competition for the second and third and the relays team will be strong between Gloria Asumnu, Khadija Suleiman, Jennifer Madu and a host of others athletes.
The women’s 400m will also be interesting, Patience Okon-George is the national leader this season but she will face
stiff competition from Margret Bamigbose, Sade Abugan, Ekundayo Sogbesan, Ibukun Maiyegun, Omolara Omotosho and others.
The CAA Grand Prix and Warri Relays will equally be exciting with South Africa, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya and others sending in their best teams.
For the celebration of mother of all sports, Sapele Townships and it’s environ is wearing a new look, the main bowl of the stadium is also sparkling.
Yussuf Alli, the technical manager of Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), the man who will run the championships is excited about the 2016 championships
“This is the biggest turnout of local and foreign based athletes in the history of the championships. We have over 40 athletes from Europe and America alone, this is massive, am happy this is taking place in Sapele Township Stadium because the track is very fast and the people are athletics friendly’’.
Alli on behalf of AFN thanked the Delta State Government through the state sports commission and Seplat Petroleum for their support that made the trial possible.