The 2016 Rio Olympics athletics events is set to get underway today, 12th August at the Rio de Janiero Olympic stadium, Brazil which was built in 2007 and oil rich nation, Bahrain will be represented by 31 athletes out of which 6 are Nigerians.
These athletes have either competed for Nigeria at a point or have made the team but were never picked while some didn’t even make the team. A school of thought have it that they made a wise decision for switching allegiance while others are wishing they stayed back to become the champions they are in the Green White Green colours.
Adekoya is a Nigerian-born Bahraini star athlete who competes in the 400m flat and 400m hurdles. She has a personal best of 50.86s and 54.12s which are Bahrain’s National Records.
She shocked the world in 2014 especially the Nigerian officials present at the Doha Diamond League not because she won the 400m hurdles on her debut appearance but that she donned the Red and White colors of Bahrain and it was a world-leading time.
Adekoya is not regretting switching allegiance because she felt she would have been forced to retire early due to frustration. She is most notable for her win at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland earlier this year when she stunned the world with a time of 51.45s which is also a Bahraini record. Her times this year is faster than any Nigerian female quatermiler competing in Rio. She is ranked 10th in the world this year in the 400m hurdles.
Abbas Abubakar Abbas
Abbas who is famous for the phrase he used during an interview at The 2015 IAAF World Championships “Please Nigeria try to help some athletes…. No Nigerian athlete will beat me, even if I’m not in shape” he said.
Abbas who finished second behind Orukpe Erayokan at the National Sports Festival in 2012 switched allegiance less than a month later to compete for Bahrain. He went on to represent his adopted country at the 2013 World Junior Championship and 2014 World Junior in the 400m where he finished third in the latter meet.
Abbas who claimed that no Nigerian athlete would beat him even when he isn’t in shape, had their fastest time by a Nigerian in his discipline recent years until Orukpe Erayokan proved him wrong when he ran a blazing 44.95 at the All-African Games in Brazzaville m. From stats, Abbas has not ran a 400m outdoor this year but he is at the Olympics based on his 45. 15s he posted last year.
Edidiong Ofonime Odiong
Edidiong who is fresh from the just concluded IAAF World Junior Championships in Poland is a 19 year old Nigerian-born athlete who started competing internationally for Bahrain just last month will make her debut appearance at The Olympics in Rio.
Edidiong who competed for Nigeria at the African Youth Championship in 2013 where she converted the 400m title went on to finish 6th in the same event at the World U20 in 2014 and also anchored the Nigerian 4x400m to 5th place.
This year, the Top Sprinter went for her second appearance at the U20 Championships where she outran the rest of the field to win the title in a blazing time of 22.84s but this time in the Red and White colours of Bahrain. We wonder what the oil rich nation did with her within the space if 2 years!
Iman Essa Jasim
Iman is a Nigerian born Bahraini athlete who competes in the 100m for the oil rich nation. The 19 year old who has qualified to compete at The Olympics after running a time of 11.26s in June this year.
The youngster was formerly known as Endurance Essien Udoh was a product of Cross River State Athletics Programme along with Eddidiong. She never made the Nigerian team but she felt going to Bahrain would be a life-line for her to excel in athletics considering how difficult and competitive it is to make the Nigerian national team.
Salwa Eid Naser
Salwa was born in Nigeria to a Nigerian mum and Bahraini dad. She competes in the 400m where she is the 2015 World Youth and Military Games Champ with a personal best of 51. 39s.
In 2015, Salwa raced to a then Bahraini record of 11. 70s and 23. 03s in the 100m and 200m respectively. The youngster who won the 400m World Youth Championships in grand style after she patiently overhauled more favoured American Lynna Irby in the final stage of the race to achieve a then PB of 51. 50s to take the gold medal. Her tactical running was praised and admired by Decathlon World Record Holder, Ashton Eaton who then invited her on all expenses paid trip to train with him for three days along with 4 other athletes from the Youth competition. She would compete in the 200m and 400m in Rio.
Salem Eid Yaqoob
This name may not ring in the ears of many Nigerian sport loving enthusiast but at some point in his career, Salem switched allegiance from Nigeria to Bahrain.
Salem who is a 200m specailist will compete in the men’s 200m round 1 athletics gets underway today. Not much is known about the athlete but he has a Season Best / Personal Best of 20. 34s which places him at a joint 53rd with Arman Hall on the IAAF 2016 World ranking. His time is the fastest time by a Nigerian this year as the closest to him is Divine Oduduru who occupies the 104th spot with a time of 20.47s.
If Nigeria had capitalized on these star athletes we woukd have been in Rio with a more confident team. As it is now, more athletes are praying and hoping that one day they will have the same opportunity to leave this country in search of greener pastures in other rich nations especially the Arabian nations where they be valued and taken care of properly. I wonder how many more athletes we would lose to other nations before we come to the realization that some certain things need to be in place for athletes to stay put in Nigeria. While others are recruiting young and raw Nigerian talent, we are busy scouting for fairly used or already retired American athletes who have little or nothing to offer.
Other athletes of Nigerian decent competing for other nations include, Femi Ogunode (Qatar), Cindy Offili (Great Britain), Tiffany Porter nee Offili (Great Britain), James Dasolu (Great Britain), Courtney Okolo (USA) David Omereghie (USA), Eseosa Desalu(Italy) and Maria Benedicta Chigbolu (Italy)
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