A Future Called 'Okon Calabar'
By Paul Bassey
February 05, 2021
She cannot really explain how the
nickname "Okon Calabar stuck. All
she knows is that her name is Esther
Okon Peter. Friends called her "Okon
Lagos in school. In 2014, she was part of
the "champions that Mobil Producing Nigeria took to Calabar to hone and develop
their skills on the tartan tracks of U. J.
Esuene Stadium (The Nest of Champions
was still under construction then).
In Calabar, she reminded her friends that
she was not in "Lagos but Calabar and
quickly, her nickname was changed from
"Okon Lagos to "Okon Calabar. Surprisingly the nickname gathered momentum,
so much that even the officials, when calling her out for events, added "Okon Calabar to her name.
Last weekend, the Athletics Federation
of Nigeria (AFN), after the AFN All Comers that held in Akure named Esther Okon
as athlete of the week. Celebrating her 200
meters overall fastest time of 23.82 seconds.
The story of Esther Okon is that of courage and determination personified. No, I
don't want to go back to her early beginnings... the Mobil/NNPC track and field
championships that saw her shining endlessly as the star athlete in the Eket contingent, winning the sprints effortlessly and
going on to anchor her LGA to victory in
relays. Since then, it has been her determination to make it to the top, representing
the country at junior level variously, while
not losing sight of furthering her education.
Just last year, Esther was in Asaba for an
invitational, only to pick up an injury that
threatened her future on the tracks... then
came a "savior called Gabriel Okon. The
star ex-international and national coach
quickly invited her to Abuja where facilities
for her rehabilitation exist at the national
training centres. In less than two months,
Esther is back on the tracks and creating
During the Akure All Comers, a page in
the "making of champions ran thus: "Esther
Okon ran the fastest time overall in the
women 200 metres heats (23.82s) breezing past Godbless Tom (24.32) to win heat
4, Praise Idamadudu was the second fastest overall, also going under 24.5s to win
heat 5 in 23.95s. Joy Udo Gabriel was 3rd
fastest overall winning heat 6 in 23.39s .
The page was to also comment on the
100m women, Esther Okon ran the fastest
time of all 7 heats, holding off Balikas
Yakubu in the last 10m to win heat 4 with a
season best of 11.80s not far from her Personal Best (PB) of 11.79s. Yakubu finished
second in 11.84s and Olayinka Olajide third
in 11.94s. At the finals, Esther won the 200
metres and placed 3rd in 100 metres. A
credible and hope assured result.
Esther was not alone in Akure. Imaobong
Uko, just like she did in Asaba last time out,
won the 400 metres Unlike , the feat of
Imaobong is a given. After winning three
gold medals at the Youth Games in Ilorin,
Imabong went to the National Sports Festival in Abuja, just 14 and dusted all comers,
including those transported from abroad
with the benefits of superior training and
Her festival time of 52.36 seconds in the
400 metres remains the world best at her
age. Imaobong can only make news today,
if she does not win!
Esther Osisike and Utitofon James
grabbed the gold and silver medals in the
Discuss women, projecting Akwa Ibom as the most successful at the All
Comers which is a prominent feature in the AFN
Calendar, put together to
keep Nigeria's athletes in
shape for national, continental and world competitions.
Esther, Imaobong, Comfort James (student of Physical and Health Education, University
of Uyo, who missed Akure because of her
exams) are just a few of the abundant prospects we have going into the Festival later
in the month.
Let me attempt to single out a few 1.Consider Ekanem 100/200m
2. Hanson Dianabasi 100m/relays
3. Edidiong Udo 800/4x4
4.Comfort James 800/1500
5. Edidiong Udotong 4 x 4
6. Nsikak Francis 400/4x4
7. Success Durazo 400/4x4
8. Uwak Mfon Ituen 400
9. Ekikere Frank 100
Everyday, coach Daniel Umoette Tom
leads this pack of young and promising athletes to run and work out on the impeccable tracks of the Nest of Champions.
Everyday assisted by coaches Patrick
Patrick Awagha and Unyime Umoh, the
young and dynamic coach is so fired by the
belief that Akwa Ibom will be the state to
look out for at the Edo Festival this year.
This view is shared and fortified by Gabriel
Okon, the unofficial consultant to the Akwa
Ibom track and field Association and indeed
the State, national coach and track and field
guru. As you are reading this, Gabriel must
have landed Uyo to coordinate the last lap
of preparations for the festival.
"I like coach Umoette. He is very passionate about his job and does not allow
challenges to deter him. I send programmes
to him and he follows them religiously.
Gabriel adds that with proper handling, determination and motivation, Akwa Ibom will
be the team to beat at the National Sports
On Esther Okon, he said he just had to
step in "... I had to. She is a potential, a
future star, one of those that will bring glory
to our state and it would have been disastrous not to arrest the situation at the time
The Udom Emmanuel administration has
brought in a new lease of life to sports in
Akwa Ibom State. It is the dream of His
Excellency that this state should be in the
forefront of producing stars who will not
only go on to represent the country, but
emerge as world beaters.
The interpreter of the governor's dreams,
the workaholic sport commissioner, Sir
Monday Ebong Uko is presently putting finishing touches to the Uyo Township Stadium even as the Eket Stadium is nearing
completion with the tartan field in place.
Provision of adequate infrastructure, no
doubt, goes a long way in boasting the potentials available to us. Potentials that were
discovered in the main during the state Youth
Sports Festival that brought together over
10,000 youths from all over the state to Uyo
and the dividends have been enormous,
Time there was, when we normally travelled to Calabar to make use of tracks,
swimming pools etc at a great cost. Today,
the facilities at the Nest of Champions are
second to none.
Another salutary development is the hunger for education by the athletes. Esther
has just gained admission to study Business
administration at Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic, Ikot Osurua, Uwakmfon is in Heritage Polytechnic, Edidiong Udoh, University of Port Harcourt, like Comfort before
them, they are determined to mix their passion with education because "...one day I
will not be able to run again and will fall
back on my education to make ends
This story on track and field is indeed that
of other sports in the state. Can't wait for
the sports festival to commence.
Till next week, by His grace.