The African Canoe Race competition which also served as an Olympics pre-qualifier event began on Thursday ended on Sunday at the Jabi Boat Club, Abuja.
No fewer than 100 athletes from five African countries including, Ghana, Senegal, Sao Tome and Principe, Togo and host Nigeria took part in the four-day event.
Team Nigeria amassed a total of 34 medals, including 14 gold, six silver and one bronze to emerge as the overall winners of the event.
Sao Tome and Principe with a total of 14 medals, including one gold, six silver and seven bronze finished in the second position.
While, Senegal with a total of 12 medals, including one gold, three silver and eight bronze settled for the third position.
The various race events competed for include; 500m KL3 women, 200m KL3 men, 1,000m K1 men, 1,000m K1 women, 1,000 C1 men, 1,000 C1 women, 5,000m K2 men and 200m K1 women.
Others were; 500m C2 men, 200m C1 women, 500m KL2 men, 200m KL2 men, 200m C1 men, 200m K1 men, 500m C1 women and 500m K1 women.
Nigeria’s Ayomide Bello finished as the overall best female athlete winning three gold medals in all the three events she competed for including the 1000m C1 women (5 mins 06 secs.50 ms), 200m C1 women (55 secs.57ms) and 500m C1 women (2 mins 55 secs 88 ms).
Bello was ranked 13th in the 2019 World Championships in Hungary and also won four gold medals from four events as rower at the Admiral Porbeni Boat Race in 2021.
Also Nigeria’s youngest athlete Yinlayefa Godhelp won gold in two events which she competed for, including the 1000m K1 women (5 mins. 16 secs. 54 ms) and 500m K1 women (3 mins 01 sec. 50 ms) respectively.
Godhelp who was discovered 12 months ago has proven herself as a young sensation from the National Sports Festival, winning 500m C1 race.
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She went on to represent Nigeria at the second Africa Beach Games in Tunisia 2023 where she finished an impressive fourth position in what was her first ever international event.
Other gold medalists were Temitope Olasupo in 200m (15 secs. 21 ms) and 500m KL2 men (2 mins 45 secs 62 ms), Pere Paghamotei in 200m C1 men (48 secs.49 ms), Blessing Amusan in 200m K1 women (1 min. 56 secs), Ayoola Amusan/Endurance Godhelp in 500m K2 men (2 mins 06 secs.21 ms) and Joseph/Michael Moses in 500m C2 men (2 mins 23 secs.27 ms).
Team Nigeria smiled home with a sum of 3,000 dollars prize money, while Sao Tome and Principe pocketed 2,000 dollars with Senegal settling for 1,000 dollars.
Moses Michael, Team Nigeria’s Captain expressed joy at the team’s victory, adding that it wasn’t an easy feat even though everyone had high expectations for the team.
“Everyone expected us to win and the team spirit was very high.
“Our sport is not like football where you see pitches everywhere where you can train. Even if you see water, you won’t easily have access to the boat.
“So, it is very difficult to train and stay fit and if somebody is out of the sport for a month or two, there is no way you can get your fitness right within a week.
“But, we thank God that we did our best and the victory for us is a very good one,” he said.
On preparation of the team for the Olympics qualifiers in November and Paris 2024, Michael stressed the need to open training camp early for the athletes, adding that the Olympics was already around the corner.
“We have already discussed as a team about what we want and are ready to present our request to the federation president.
“We are already planning to travel to Germany for another pre-qualifying event next month, so as to enable us amass enough points before the Olympic qualifiers in November.
“We also want to appeal to the Federal Government to assist us because November is around the corner and Olympics training is expected to commence immediately.
“Some athletes in other countries start preparing for the Olympics a year ahead of the event. So, it is very important we resume camp immediately,” he said.
The event had in attendance, the Chief of Naval Staff, Emmanuel Ogalla, President, International Canoe Federation (ICF), Thomas Konietzko and President of the Rowing, Canoeing and Sailing Federation, Festus Porbeni.
Others are Joao Afonso, the 1st Vice President of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) and Habu Gumel, the president of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC).
1st African Porbeni Canoe Race: Team Nigeria Emerges Overall Winner
Written by: Debby Eselebor
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