Nigerian stars, Sadjo, Mwavwang to defend Okpekpe race titles

Nigeria’s top stars, Ismael Sadjo and Patience Mwavwang, have disclosed readiness to rub shoulders once again with the country’s best runners at the Okpekpe 10km Road Race, which hold tomorrow in Edo State.

Sadjo and Mwavwang won the men and women’s titles in the Nigerian category and they believe they have worked hard enough to retain their crowns tomorrow.

Sadjo ran 31:53 to win the event last year, but will need to be at his very best and prepare to break 31 minutes for the first time in his career to ward off the challenge that will be posed by Francis James, who ran 30:47 to win the 10km race at the Lagos Access Bank Marathon in Lagos in February.

Gang James Boyi (30:51), who also ran inside 31 minutes in Lagos, will also be in Okpekpe to challenge for the title.

Sadjo’s best in Okpekpe was the 31.06 he ran to win at the inaugural edition of the race in 2013 (before the label status) and a repeat performance could earn him the title for the second straight year.

For the women, David Abiye will challenge Mwavwang for the title, but the defending champion will hope to get the better of her in-form opponent just as she did in Lagos last February in the 10km race at the Lagos Access Bank marathon.

Mwavwang ran a new 34:43 lifetime best (probably a new Nigeria record) in the race and will hope to become the first Nigerian woman to break 34 minutes over the 10km when she runs in Okpekpe.

Multiple winner, Deborah Pam, will not be available this year as she has taken a leave off the road for procreation.

Stephen Nuhu, a long-distance running coach, who will accompany the athletes to Okpekpe, is confident Nigerian athletes can get over the 30-minute line and become internationally recognised very soon.

“The athletes have been training very well and I am confident they will soon become recognized as international elite athletes very soon which will make them available for other label road races around the world,” he said.

There will be over N100million on offer as prize money at the race for the top five finishers in each gender category for the international elite field,just as the Nigerian elite runners will battle for the prize money.

Winners in each gender category will go home with $15,000, while second and third-place finishers will be rewarded with $8,000 and $5,000 respectively, with fourth and fifth going home with $3,000 and $2,000 respectively.

For the Nigerian elite athletes, a top prize of N500,000 will go to the winners of each gender category, with the second to fifth place getting N300,000, N200,000, N120,000 and N80,000 respectively.

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