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Editorials, Sports

Nigerian Athletics: Women Are The Present And Future

In recent years, Nigerian athletics has continued to produce talented athletes who have achieved success at the international level

  • Toyosi Afolayan
  • 15th May 2023

Nigerian athletics has a rich history that dates back to the colonial era. During this period, British colonial administrators introduced Western sports such as football, athletics, and boxing to Nigeria, which quickly gained popularity among Nigerians.


In the 1940s and 1950s, Nigerian athletes began participating in international sporting events such as the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games. Some of the early Nigerian athletes who achieved international success during this period include Emmanuel Ifeanjuna, who won Nigeria’s first Olympic gold medal in the high jump at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and Nojeem Maiyegun, who won Nigeria’s first Commonwealth Games gold medal in the 440 yards race in 1954.


In the 1970s and 1980s, Nigerian athletics continued to grow in popularity and success, with Nigerian athletes winning several medals at international events such as the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games, and the All-Africa Games. Some notable Nigerian athletes who achieved international success during this period include Mary Onyali, Chidi Imoh, Innocent Egbunike, and Falilat Ogunkoya.




While Nigerian athletics has produced many talented female athletes, it is not necessarily female-dominated. Male athletes have also achieved significant success in Nigerian athletics, particularly in events such as the 100m, 200m, and 400m sprints, as well as in the long jump and triple jump.


That being said, female Nigerian athletes have achieved notable success in events such as the 100m, 200m, and 400m sprints, as well as in the long jump and triple jump. Some of the most successful Nigerian female athletes include Mary Onyali-Omagbemi, who won four Olympic medals and eight medals at the World Championships, and Chioma Ajunwa who won gold at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada, and the 1995 African Championships in Athletics held in Algiers, Algeria, and her historic Olympic victory.


In recent years, Nigerian athletics has continued to produce talented athletes who have achieved success at the international level. Some of the current Nigerian athletes who have achieved international success include Blessing Okagbare, who has won multiple medals at the Olympics and the World Championships, and Tobi Amusan, who won the gold medal in the women’s 100m hurdles at the 2018 Commonwealth Games,  2022 World Championships and setting the current world record of 12.12 seconds in the semi-final, followed up by a wind-assisted 12.06 s in the final.




Nigeria has continued to produce notable athletes in track and field since the turn of the 21st century. Although females in athletics have been immense for the last 23 years, making history and maintaining Nigeria’s reputation in all forms of Track and Fields Here are some of the most prominent Nigerian athletes in track and field since the year 2000:


  • Blessing Okagbare: Okagbare is a former Nigerian track and field athlete who specialized in the long jump and sprints. She is an Olympic and World Championships medallist in the long jump and a world medalist in the 200 meters. Okagbare also holds the women’s 100 meters Commonwealth Games record at 10.85 seconds. Her 100 m best of 10.79 made her the African record holder for the event until it was eclipsed by Murielle Ahouré in 2016. On June 17, 2021, Okagbare ran a wind-aided 10.63 100 m. She was the African record holder over the 200 m with a time of 22.04 seconds in 2018, thus making her the second-fastest African female athlete over the distance behind Christine Mboma, who ran an African record of 21.78 s in 2021. Okagbare was the African 100 m and long jump champion in 2010. She has also won medals at the All-Africa Games, IAAF Continental Cup, and World Relays.


  • Ese Brume: Brume is a Nigerian athlete who specializes in the long jump. She possesses a personal best of 7.17 meters and is the current Commonwealth and three-time African senior champion in the long jump. She now owns the African junior record, African record, and Commonwealth Games record in the competition. She has won two medals from the international athletics championship, an Olympic bronze medal, and five junior African athletics titles. She is also the first African to win two Long Jump medals at the World Athletics Championships and the only athlete to win three straight Long Jump titles at the African Athletics Championships.


  • At the 2013 African Junior Athletics Championships, Brume won the long jump gold medal, the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the 2014 African Senior Athletics Championships, and the 2015 African Junior Athletics Championships. She previously represented Nigeria in the 2014 World Junior Athletic Championships. At the 2016 Olympic Games, Brume, a representative of Nigeria, finished fifth in the long jump final with a leap of 6.81 meters. With jumps of 6.91 meters at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha and 6.97 meters at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Brume won the bronze medal in the long jump event. She broke the record for the first African woman to clear four legal marks over seven meters in 2022.


  • Tobi Amusan: Amusan is a track and field athlete from Nigeria who competes in both the 100-meter hurdles and the sprint. She is now the 100 m hurdles world, commonwealth, and African champion, and she also holds the meet record in all three of those events. Amusan won the 100 m hurdles gold medal at the 2022 World Championships, setting the current world record of 12.12 seconds in the semi-final and a wind-assisted 12.06 s in the final. She did this to become the first-ever Nigerian world champion and world record holder in an athletics event. In the 100 m hurdles, she won back-to-back Commonwealth and African championships in 2018 and 2022. She also won the race twice at the African Games. 


  • Amusan won the gold medal in the 100-meter hurdles event at the African Junior Championships in 2015, and the following year, at the age of 18, she won her first gold medal in the African Games. Amusan won the 100 m hurdles trophy in 2021, becoming the first Nigerian athlete to win a Diamond League championship while also shattering Glory Alozie’s previous African record in the process. In 2022, she retained her title.


  • Favour Chukwuka Ofili: Nigerian sprinter Ofili competes in track and field. She won the 400-meter silver medal in the 2019 African Games. In the 200 meters at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Ofili took home silver. She won the bronze medal in the 200 meters at the 2021 World Under-20 Championship. Ofili is the first Nigerian woman in history (and the second African woman) to break the 22-second barrier. She owns the African indoor record in the event and the Nigerian record (also at the U20 level) over the distance with a time of 21.96 seconds. In April 2022, she ran 10.93 in the 100 m, breaking the NCAA record for female athletes to run both sub-11 and sub-22 seconds.


These athletes, among others, have continued to represent Nigeria with distinction in international competitions and have helped to elevate the profile of Nigerian athletics in the world.


Males have been in the light too but the ladies have had more impacts. For example, in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Nigerian men’s 4x100m relay team won a silver medal, while in the 2013 World Championships. In the same championships, men’s triple jumper, Tosin Oke, won a bronze medal.


In addition, several Nigerian male athletes have won medals in major international competitions, including sprinters like Olusoji Fasuba, who won a gold medal in the 100m event at the 2007 All-Africa Games, and Divine Oduduru, who won a silver medal in the men’s 200m event at the 2019 World Championships.


Weightlifting, powerlifting, boxing, para-table tennis, athletics, boxing, and table tennis were the seven events in which 94 athletes competed for Team Nigeria. This was their best-ever performance at the games, as they won an unprecedented 12 gold, 9 silver, and 14 bronze medals for a total of 35 medals, placing them seventh out of 42 nations that took part in the 2022 Commonwealth Games.


The most remarkable aspect of Team Nigeria’s victory in England is that female athletes competed in wrestling, weightlifting, and athletic competitions and won all 12 gold medals that gave the nation her outstanding ranking. 


The 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, saw Team Nigeria put up its finest performance to date, winning a total of 11 gold, 8 silver, and 14 gold medals, with the female competitors, under the direction of Blessing Okagbare, adding nine gold medals.


Alhassan Yakmut, a former director general of the National Sports Commission (NSC), said he was not astonished by the accomplishments of the young women.


In an exclusive interview with Daily Trust, the former Nigerian international volleyball player said, “Personally, the superlative performances of Team Nigeria’s women didn’t come to me as a surprise. It has been the trend in the past 25 years. Our best performances in international competitions have been limited to women.


“I, therefore, agree with the Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, who said the performance of Nigerian women in Birmingham was proof of how much women could contribute to the image and development of the country


“Now, the events are 50-50 for male and female athletes. Therefore, it is the male gender that we must revive for podium performances,” Yakmut said.


As it is, Nigerian women seem to be the face of Nigeria Athletics at the moment and it doesn’t look like they are not letting go of the pedal anytime soon.

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