An eventful weekend at the ongoing 19th National Sports Festival (NSF) in Abuja came to an end with athletes representing Delta State posting impressive results in a number of events.
Team Delta dominated the swimming events on Saturday taking gold medals through Deborah Okpochiri in the Women’s 100m Freestyle, Ndakwe Oyins in the Women’s 200m Butterfly and Nmor Ifeakachukwu in the Men’s 200m Freestyle swimming finals.
Rivers State dominated the 77km Road Race cycling event with Rosemary Marcus riding to victory in a time of 2hrs:03m:44secs. Odiase Glory of Team Rivers took silver in 2hrs:11mins:12secs while Adejoke Durogbado took home bronze for Team Oyo in a time of 2hrs:11mins:13.47secs.
In Para Power-lifting, Ibrahim Olaitan of Osun State lifted 125kg in the 67kg female weight category to beat Virginia Azu of Akwa Ibom who also lifted 125kg to the gold medal on Saturday. Olaitan took gold by virtue of weighing less than Azu who at 66kg was two kilograms heavier than her counterpart from Osun State. Oriemezie joy of Imo State took bronze with a lift of 123kg. In the 61kg female weight category, world record holder Lucy Ejike of Enugu state took the gold medal with a lift of 130kg.
In Judo, Joseph David defeated Usman Mohammed of Kano State to win gold for Team Oyo in the +100kg Men’s event. Achanya Friday of Team Delta and Bashir Bala of Kano finished with bronze medals. In the -100kg men’s event, Surajudeen Bello of the host city, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) won gold with Tasnan Eric of Benue and Progress Benson of Rivers finishing with bronze medals.
In women’s Judo, Akintunde Adewunmi won gold for Team Lagos in the +78kg category with Rita James taking silver for Team Kano while the bronze medals went to Esther Sule of Bauchi and Bose A. Ajayi of Delta State. In the -78kg category, Sarah Attah took the gold for Yobe State while Maryann Ekeada of the FCT and Ibikoya Tope of Ogun State won bronze medals.
Team Delta continued their dominance in swimming on Sunday racking up impressive victories in both individual and team events with a couple of National Sports Festival records thrown in for good measure.
Akiayefa Timipamere saw off National Record holder Ifiezibe Gagbe of Bayelsa to take gold for Delta State with a time of 5:56:80secs in the 400m Individual Medley Women event. Gagbe finished second to claim silver for Bayelsa state while John Faith of Lagos state won bronze.
Akiayefa and Gagbe continued their rivalry in the 200m Women Backstroke event with Akiayefa coming out tops to claim gold in a time of 02:30:09 with Gagbe settling for silver while Team Oyo’s Bisola Adamolekun won bronze.
Gagbe completed a hat-trick of silver medals when she lost out to Okpochiri Deborah of Team Delta whose time of 21:05:10secs set a new National Record eclipsing Gagbe’s own record of 20:56:25secs set in 2014. Oluchi Obi took bronze for Team Lagos.
In the 50m Women’s Breaststroke, Chinelo won gold for Team Delta with Racheal Tonjor of Edo state finishing with silver and Doutari Gagbe taking bronze for Bayelsa.
Veteran swimmer Yellow Yeiyah continued his dominance in the 50m Men’s Butterfly by taking gold for Team Kano in an event in which he set the Festival and National records in 2006 and 2007 respectively. Team Delta’s Nmor Ifeakachukwu settled for silver while I. Confidence took bronze for Rivers state.
Nmor Ifeakachukwu won his second individual gold medal of the festival and third overall when he beat Kingsley Forcados’ 2012 Festival Record of 2:20:94secs to set a new Festival Record of 02:18:44secs on the way to winning gold in the 200m Men Individual Medley.
Yellow Yeiyah of Kano and Dino Ebarakumo of Rivers took the silver and bronze medals respectively. In the 4x200m Men Freestyle Relay, Team Delta took gold ahead of Team Kano and Team Edo who won silver and bronze respectively.
The 19th National Sports Festival taking place in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, runs till 16, December 2018.
Meanwhile, Edo State is groaning under the weight of an over-bloated contingent.
With 591 athletes and officials, the state has the largest contingent at the games. Checks reveal that more than a third of this number are not athletes but individuals smuggled into the team for personal reasons. And the athletes are complaining that the ‘outsiders’ have been getting preferential treatment over the main actors at the festival.
While coaches and their athletes have been struggling to get themselves accommodated and paid their outstanding camping allowances and settle down to compete, these individuals smuggled into the team have since been settled into comfortable accommodation.
“We have been treated like orphans right from Benin City. We had trained for about two weeks courtesy of the generosity of our coaches who funded the exercise because the state refused to provide funds.
“We travelled overnight on Wednesday and arrived in Abuja on Thursday morning and were driven straight to the stadium. Even after the opening ceremony, we were huddled into the bus and spent the night without being accommodated,” an aggrieved female athlete said.
The Edo state case is just one out of the many cases that has marred the planning and preparation from states and the organizing committee of the 19th National Sports Festival.