World championships: Victor Omagbemi celebrates his Magnificent seven

*Don’t expect medals from my girls, the exposure matters more now

By Olajide Fashikun

Nigerian coach, Victor Omagbemi, who had the onerous task of putting together the lasses that qualified the nation for the World Championships in London next month has singled out his girls, which he named the Magnificent seven, saying the nation should invest patience in the future and not to expect

Coach Victor Omagbemi, athletics
Coach Victor Omagbemi, athletics

medals from the girls. He left a window, anything can happen though.

In an interview, the coach based in Houston in America said, “I would like to thank the 7 ladies from the bottom of my heart who sacrificed themselves to ensure we competitively competed with the rest of the world at the 2017 world relays. Against all odds these ladies whom I call the “magnificent 7” competed and made the finals of 2 out of 3 events within a 26-hour period.

Their gallant effort radiated the strength and courage that each of them possessed, but most especially the faith they had in one another to come together as a team to compete against the odds that were stacked up against them.

If you ever saw the movie the magnificent seven you would understand what I mean competing against the odds. Seven ladies did the job that normally requires 18 athletes to do. The praise of Team Nigeria from other countries were extremely high as they marvelled at the dedication, strength and mental toughness of our ladies.

Victor Omagbemi's Magnificent 7
Victor Omagbemi’s Magnificent 7

We used only the resources available to us: Coach Victor Omagbemi added, “People were wondering why we selected only seven ladies to take to an international meet. There were a few last minute drop outs from the team but the answer is quite simple, that’s all we had. This was a meet that was essential to attend as making the final in the 4×100 and 4×400 guaranteed a spot at London 2017 world championships.

There was no way that I was going to disrupt our opportunity by not participating based on numbers. As I looked at the list of ladies who accepted the call of duty I knew we had to really run hard in every race. I knew I needed more ladies in order to have a great showing at the Bahamas meet, but all that fear was erased when I met with the ladies at our first meeting. I was so amazed at the overwhelming confidence and energy that radiated out of these ladies.

Jeniffer Edobi, Pateince Okon, Ugonna Ndu, Margaret Bamgbose...athletics
Jeniffer Edobi, Pateince Okon, Ugonna Ndu, Margaret Bamgbose…athletics

Right there and then I knew I had in front of me a group of young talented Nigerian lasses that would one day take the world by storm with their athletic performance. I realised this group of ladies though young and inexperienced would define the true meaning of a team. These individuals displayed no fear and disregarded the fact and that they were competing against the best countries in the world with only one experienced international runner (Patience George Okon).

I wept for the great spirit in my girls: It was truly amazing to see how they motivated, encouraged and drew strength from each other as their unity, trust and faith grew daily. This team became a family by the end of the games. Tears came to my eyes on the final day of the games when our ladies 4×100 team did not make the final. These were not tears of disappointment or sadness based on the results but just tears of joy and pride in the attitude of the team.

10 minutes before going to the call room, Dominique Duncan strained her quadriceps and had to be replaced by Ugonna Ndu our 400 metres hurdler. Even though the odds against making the finals increased, the ladies still decided to give it their best shot.

Victor Omagbemi's Magnificent 7...working for their qualification for London
Victor Omagbemi’s Magnificent 7…working for their qualification for London

As Dominique laid on the table receiving treatment from Dr. Lawson Howard the only words that came out of her mouth were, “I have let the team down” and “coach, are you mad at me?” as she watched the team walk toward the call room. She was more worried about the team’s performance then the fact she was in pain from the injury. At that moment she became my heroine.

Negative Nigerian media: Coach Victor Omagbemi, son of a former national coach, Jimmy Omagbemi, in the same athletics said, “It was sad to hear the negative reviews from some of the Nigerian press on the performance at Nassau. One newspaper review mentioned it was a joke. I shake my head at the negative remarks and discouraging comments.

Simply because we don’t have the fastest runners present does not mean we should not participate. The purpose is not always about winning right at that moment but it’s about exposing the athlete and acquiring the requisite experience for the future. The host country, Bahamas, presented a 4x400m relay team with the Olympic champion running the first leg. It was a young inexperienced team that needed the experience of competing internationally. They did not care about not qualifying for the final because they were looking towards the future.

Young, determined and strong like lionesses…Victor Omagbemi’s lasses that did Nigeria proud. Let them grow to dominate the world gradually

As a nation we need to learn to stand together to encourage, support and motivate the athletes that represent our country regardless of the outcome whether it is good, bad or ugly.

The same team you speak poorly of now may be the next Olympic champions. Their effort qualified the ladies for the 4x400m relay for the World championships in London and a 5th place finish in the 4x200metres.

How the Bahamas trip came to pass: I would like to thank immediate past AFN President, Solomon Ogba, for investing confidence in the future and giving these ladies the opportunity to represent our great country. Vanderbilt University deserves mention for allowing Jennifer Edobi participate at the games and Dr. Lawson Howard for the outstanding job he did treating the ladies.

The Magnificent 7: I see these lasses as a massive blessing. They include Patience George Okon, Jennifer Madu, Jennifer Edobi, Ugonna Ndu, Margaret Bamgbose, Lindsey Lindey and Dominique Duncan. Sincerely, it has been a great honour to be their relay coach for the 2017 World Relays. Their performances has set a path for the great things our country is about to accomplish.

With the quality of confidence that incoming AFN President, Ibrahim Gusau has mentioned about them in the World championships, it will fire the team to work hard and give surprises.

Winning in the World championships: Thanks for asking this question again. I love the question. In terms of age, we are likely to have one of the youngest teams in the 2017 World championships in London. We would be asking too much for them to place in the medal zone. It is not as if it not possible. If that happens, that will be a welcome bonus.

With young teams like ours, it is the experience that should matter and not the medal. Their ability to compete with the very best in the world is a very great tactical gambit to coaches. In another two years, many teams we would have competed against in London would have been fizzling out while ours will be rising on the graph of performance.

We have a world class beater in Tobi Amusan who is ranked second in the world who has returned fantastic performances this season. She would be expected to stand tall as a global leader in the hurdles.

With my interaction so far, we are ascending back to international glory. We only need to identify what we want, work towards it, create opportunities to bring up new kids in their hundreds and we shall return to our world leadership position. I see Nigeria soon coming back to reckoning like we used to do in the 70s and 80s up to the 90s.

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