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13th African Games: One-time African sprint queen Mary Onyali praises athletes

The track and field competitors competing in the 13th African Games being held in Accra, Ghana, have impressed Mary Onyali, a five-time Olympian and former African and Commonwealth sprinter from Nigeria.

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Onyli, an Olympic sprint medallist and past African and Commonwealth champion in the 100 and 200 metres, gave a speech in Accra during the Games’ athletics competitions, reports Persecondnews.

She had placed third in the 200-meter race and the 4×100-meter relay in the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games. She also took home the 100-meter title from the 1994 Commonwealth Games.

At the All Africa Games, Onyali-Omagbemi excelled particularly well, taking home seven medals in the short sprints alone.

She finished third in the 1987 100-meter race and won in 1991, 1995, and 2003. In the 200 metres, gold medals were won in 1987, 1995, and 2003.

In addition, the Nigerian 4×100-meter relay team won every event at the African Games from 1987 to 2003.
“From an athlete’s perspective, they have been giving their best. This is an Olympic year, so this being our first major African Championships, we see this as our African Olympics.

“The athletes are prepared. They have been dropping fast times here, personal bests, and national records, and we are just looking for a world record from somebody,’’ she said.

Onyali commended Ghana for organising the Games, saying that in spite of initial challenges, the country had given Africa a very entertaining session.

On Team Nigeria, the former African sprint queen said her athletes have done well so far.

“In athletics, Nigeria is leading on the medal table, and we hope to continue the medal haul until the final day. We usually don’t miss the top three medal table in athletics because athletics is the mainstay of team Nigeria,’’ she said.

Onyali said she was impressed with the successes recorded by home-based athletes in track and field events.

She said that, from the look of things, some of them will become big stars in the future if they remain focused, determined, and dedicated.

“I’m extremely happy with these games. The majority of our athletes are home-based and homegrown.

“This is a testament to the fact that our foreign-based athletes, who are majority student athletes, if not released by their schools to attend events like this, usually feel like we don’t have anybody, and we start losing hope.

Onyali also said: “This year, the athletics federation of Nigeria has deemed it fit to believe and trust in our home-based athletes and coaches.

“ I am happy that we are beginning to see that there are really some good things coming out of our home-based athletes, and I want this to continue so that we don’t continue to rely on our foreign-based athletes to perform.

Onyali advised home-based athletes to use their first outing at the African Games as a benchmark, and those who did not make the team should not relent because the future is bright.

“I also give our kudos to our coaches for doing the impossible, and everybody has taken notice,’’ she said.

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