The recognition of home based Nigerian athletes got a major boost earlier this year, when for the first time in the history of Nigeria Track & Field, a kits apparel company chose to sponsor six home based athletes as her ambassadors and models for the 2018/2019 season.
The sports brand company called DAG Apparel, is UK based and specialises in producing fashionable kits and wears for sportsmen and women.
DAG Apparel came into the Nigerian market less than a year ago, with one of it’s aims being to give back to Nigeria sports. In so doing, they sealed a partnership with Save Our Sports Nigeria NGO (founded by African Record holder, Olusoji Fasuba) to support specific talented athletes as her ambassadors.
These athletes will have the sole privilege of being kitted the brands wears, and will also be brand representatives of the company at every competitions attended both within and outside Nigeria.
The six athletes carefully chosen are (L-R): Enoch Adegoke, Mercy Ntia-Obong, Usheoritse Itsekiri, Gloria Bassey, Emmanuel Arowolo and Precious Okoronkwo.
Here’s a summary of each athlete’s career profile:
Arowolo, has dominated the 200m event on the home front and stayed unbeaten in the past two years. He has closed with the 200m fastest time by a home based athlete since 2016, no wonder he was a semifinalist at the Commonwealth Games in Australia.
His 100m prowess is also noteworthy, as has equally stayed among the Top 5 in the event within the country in two consecutive seasons.
With PB’s of 10.31s (100m) & 20.84s (200m) all set in 2018, Arowolo is currently a household name in Nigeria Athletics and deservedly takes his spot as an ambassador for the sport in the country.
Itsekiri, is one of the few athletes in Nigeria that has successfully moved from youth to senior ranks. He represented the country at the 2015 African Youth Championships in Mauritius, and 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa.
After obtaining his Engineering degree from the University in 2016, he decided to fully focus on Athletics as it has always been his dream to become a Global Champion in the sport. In 2017, he became the 100m National Junior Champion and was a finalist at the World Championships trials where he came 5th.
This year marked his debut season as a senior athlete, making the team to the Commonwealth Games as part of the 4x100m relay quartet that got to the final of the Championship. His 100m PB of 10.43s currently puts him No.6 on the Top Ten Nigeria standings.
In 2017, the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) undergraduate announced himself to Nigeria sprints circuit when he ran a Personal Best (PB) of 10.40s, to close the season with the fourth fastest time ran by a Nigerian.
The youngster built on this performance by making his big intentions known for the 2018 season, when he surprisingly defeated his seniors to win the 100m at the Commonwealth Games trials, running a new PB of 10.31s thereby sealing his ticket to the Commonwealth Games in Australia.
At 18, running in his first international competition for Nigeria, the speedster became the country’s sprints revelation at the Games, clocking a massive PB of 10.19s to win his Heat before going on to win his Semis against more established world class athletes.
Though he finished 7th in the final, he already put his name in the record books as Nigeria’s youngest and first home grown male finalist at a global championship final in over a decade.
Interestingly, he’s also the youngest and only junior among the DAG ambassadors. His talent definitely can’t be over-emphasised.
As the only field athlete among the DAG ambassadors, Okoronkwo boasts of a modest career profile. She made her National debut at the 2013 African Youth Games, where she competed in the Triple Jump.
Thereafter, she switched to the Long Jump and 100m, where she’s made giant leaps this year with the most significant being her Long Jump PB of 6.43m, which was brilliant enough to seal her spot to compete at the Commonwealth Games.
Noteworthy is that the distance is the farthest on home soil by a home based jumper, since 2014 Commonwealth Champion, Ese Brume left the shores of the country two years ago.
Okoronkwo has remained unbeaten in the Long Jump this 2018 season, and also has a modest 100m PB of 11.73s.
Ntia-Obong became a respected name in Nigeria Athletics, when she competed in the finals of the 2016 World Junior Championships in Poland.
Thereafter, her career went on a decline which included missing out on making the team to the recently concluded Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.
Not barred by the disappointment, the former National Junior Champion bounced back stronger at the MoC Grand Prix, racing to 100m PB of 11.46s in the Heats, before clocking a much faster 11.25s (2.1m/s) to win the final.
Though the winning time in the final isn’t a PB due to excessive wind reading, it’s noteworthy that’s the fastest time by a home based female athlete under any wind conditions, and has catapulted her back to the top female sprinter based in Nigeria.
The Calabar based sprinter also boasts of 200m PB of 23.17s.
The most experienced athlete among the DAG Ambassadors, having been on the track professionally since 2005.
Bassey was a Silver medallist at the 2007 Mobil Track and Field Championships and part of the relay team that set the 4x100m record at the 2009 Kaduna Festival.
She holds an 100m PB of 11.56s and 200m PB of 23.45s.
More pictures of the DAG Ambassadors
To buy any of the apparels online at affordable prices, visit www.dagapparel.co.uk or checkout on Instagram – @dagapparel
Fore more information on the athletes, relating to their news, videos, performances and progress, visit www.saveoursports.ng
All photos by Abu Salami Photography; Instagram – @abusalamiphotography