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World championships: Ogunkoya blames Okon, Osheku, Itanyi for 4x400m flop

*Semi-final time was good for medal

All three coaches at the World Athletics championships in London must be held responsible for the failure of the 4x400metres relay team missing out on the medal. This is the view of Atlanta ’96 Olympics bronze medallist, Chief Falilat Ogunkoya-Omotayo.

The three coaches are Gabriel Okon, Pat Itanyi and Tony Osheiku. The Nigerian team failed to win a medal in London because the athletes were poorly managed by the coaches.

The 400m gold medallist at the 7th All Africa Games held at Johannesburg in South Africa in 1999 was unhappy with the manner the coaches ‘bungled’ the teams’s chances in the final of the women’s 4x400m relay on Sunday.

Ogunkoya-Omotayo, a former Board member of the AFN, whose personal best and African record of 49.10 seconds at Atlanta ’96 Olympics remains the twelfth fastest of all time, said that Nigeria could have grabbed at least a bronze medal in London but the coaches ‘messed up’ the opportunity.

Chief Falilat Ogunkoya-Omotayo quipped that “When the girls qualified for final in the 4x400m relay, I told some few friends around me that Nigeria will surely win a medal in the final if they repeat the same time that qualified them. I never knew that the coaches would come up with a formation that will scuttle the whole plan,” Ogunkoya stated.

Chief Falilat Ogunkoya-Omotayo
Chief Falilat Ogunkoya-Omotayo

In the semi-finals, Nigeria’s 4x400m women’s team made up of Patience Okon George, Onome Nathaniel, Emerald Egwim and Yinka Ajayi ran a fantastic race with 3.25.40 seconds, a season’s best for the quartet, to emerge second behind winners, Jamaica (3:23:64) in Heat 2.

As at the time of the semi-final, one of the team members was still battling with visa problems back home. She joined the team a few hours to the final.

The anticipation in many quarters before the final race on Sunday was that the team should be able to pick a medal of any colour for Nigeria if the athletes could add a little bite to their performance in the semi.

“In the first place, I don’t know the reason why the coaches decided to drop one of the athletes for Abike who just arrived the camp few hours to the final race,” Ogunkoya fumed.

“Again, I don’t know the rationale behind the decision to allow Patience Okon George to start the race. She was the

Gabriel Okon...one of the coaches in London
Gabriel Okon…one of the coaches in London

most experienced among the athletes and an experienced coach should have prepared Okon George for the anchor leg.”

The Nigerians posted 3.26.72 seconds to place fifth in the final, a performance Chief Falilat Ogunkoya-Omotayo said was far below expectation.

“After one of the Jamaican athletes suffered a misfortune in the final, the medal was there for Nigeria to pick, if only an experienced athlete like Okon George was running the anchor leg. I felt so disappointed, not with the athletes but the coaches. You can see that the time our girls ran in the semi-final was good enough to fetch Nigeria a medal in the championship.”

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