Athletics News

Why the African Games was special for athletics

Why the African Games was special for athletics

Why the African Games was memorable for athletics

 

It was 6:35 pm in Accra, and the Ghanaian fans had remained inside the stadium at the University of Ghana, where the Athletics event of the 15th African Games took place. Typically, they would have begun to leave in their droves to avoid the evening traffic. Instead, the 11,000 seats in the stadium remained filled, all expectant for the men’s 4x100m final.

It was a renewal of the rivalry between Nigeria and Ghana—perhaps for the 1000th time. Rivalry spans all life work, but nothing beats the one in sport. With Ghana hosting this edition of the African Games, Nigeria had a chance to exact its pound of flesh on her West African neighbors.

You could hear a pin drop in the stadium as Sunday Okon and Gadayi Edwin prepared to take the lead leg for Nigeria and Ghana, respectively. As they took the baton around for the first three legs, it was when the anchors for both countries—Usheoritse Itsekiri for Nigeria and Joseph Amoah for Ghana—got the baton that the decibel levels of sound from the crowd went a lot higher.

With about 90m of track to cover, both sprinters gave it their all. With the home crowd cheering Amoah, he tried to reel in Itsekiri for the Gold as he did five years ago in Rabat. He came within whiskers of doing that but ran out of track and lost the Gold to Nigeria by 0.02s. The Ghanaian fans in the stadium jubilated as if they had won, but it was not until they saw the time on the screen. Close, but yet far away. Nigeria had won this round of rivalry.

This race exemplified how running at his core was just about getting to the finish line ahead of your rivals. Doesn’t matter how the job is done. Just do it. Itsekiri wanted it so much that he threw himself on the line. The bruises were worth every ounce of Gold. “I wanted it so much,” he said after the race. A day before, he had snagged Silver in the men’s 100m, an upgrade from the Bronze he won in Rabat. But this Gold meant more to him. “This is my first international Gold for Nigeria, and I’m glad it came on Ghanaian soil.”

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