Sprint hurdler, Tobiloba Amusan and long jumper, Ese Brume will spearhead Nigeria’s challenge for podium appearances when the 17th edition of the IAAF flagship event, the world championships begins today in Doha, Qatar, Completesports.com reports.
Amusan, the fourth fastest athlete (12.49 seconds) over the 100m hurdles so far this year behind the Jamaican duo of world leader, Danielle William (12.32 seconds) and reigning NCAA champion, Janeek Brown (12.40) as well as reigning world record holder, USA’s Kendra Harrison (12.43) has been in impressive form this season, running a lifetime best in Sotteville, France last July and has legally ducked inside 13 seconds 10 times this season.
The petite Nigerian looks a cast iron certainty to make her first sprint hurdles final after stumbling at the semi-final stage two years ago in London.
If she scales the hurdles into her first global final, the reigning All Africa Games queen will be one of the favourites to make the podium. If she does, she will be emulating compatriot, Glory Alozie who ran 12.44 seconds to win a silver medal at the seventh edition of the championship in 1999 in Seville, Spain behind the great Gail Devers of the USA.
Amusan will however not only be looking to emulate Alozie’s feat, she will also be targeting her 12.44 African record set in 1998 and the 2018 Commonwealth Games queen will be bouyed by her incredible run in Sotteville on July 16 this year when she became the second Nigerian nay African woman to break 12.50 seconds in the 100m hurdles with her 12.49 seconds run.
She proved the time was not by happenstance early this month when she ran 12.51 seconds to win at the ISTAF IAAF challenge meeting at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, Germany. That time was her second career best and a sign that she has come to form just at the right time.
Also favoured for a podium appearance in Doha is Brume, the 2018 African Championship and 2019 African Games gold medallist in the long jump.
Brume is the second best athlete in the world over the horizontal jump so far this year with her 7.05m leap in Bursa,Turkey last month behind Germany’s Malaika Mihambo whose 7.16m world lead was achieved on August 4, the same day Brume leapt into history books as the third Nigerian nay African woman to jump 7m and above in history of the event behind Chioma Ajunwa whose 7.12m leap in Atlanta, Georgia in 1996 fetched Nigeria her first Olympics gold medal and Blessing Okagbare who jumped 7m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting at the Stade Louis II in Monaco in 2013.
Ese who placed fifth in the event three years ago at the Rio Olympics in Brazil has been consistent this year jumping over 6.7,6.8m and will only need to find the form that lifted her above 7m in Bursa to be guaranteed a place in history as the second Nigerian woman to win a field event medal at the IAAF Worlds after Okagbare’s silver leap in Moscow six years ago.
Sprinters, Divine Oduduru and African Games fastest man, Raymond Ekevwo, as well as shot putter, Enekwechi Chukwuebuka can also fancy their chances of making the finals of the 100m and shot put events.
No Nigerian male has made the 100m final since 2007 when Olusoji Fasuba ran 10.07 seconds to place fourth in Osaka and the duo of Oduduru and Ekevwo look likely to change the story and perhaps go a step further by becoming the first Nigerian man (or woman) to win a blue ribband medal at the IAAF Worlds.
Oduduru, who successfully completed a sprint double in spectacular fashions at the NCAA Championships in Austin,Texas, USA last June, running an incredible 9.86 seconds in the 100m has failed to inspire since then and will look to re-enact his NCAA Championship form to be considered a contender.
Ekevwo surprised in Rabat when he broke his first 10 seconds in the event (9.96 seconds) to win the African Games gold and can be considered the man in form. He will however need to run inside 10 seconds again to stand a chance of extending his fairy tale season which began with an NCAA Championship 4x100m gold to the podium in Doha.
Enekwechi on his part has had a very impressive season, breaking the national record on multiple occasions before steadying it at 21.80m, the 10th best mark in the world this season.
He will however need to hit the 22m mark which eight persons led by USA’s Ryan Crouser (22.74m) have done this year. Judging by his geometrical progression this year, one could be tempted to say it will be mission possible. If wishes do not become horses, he can console himself with the fact that he can be the first Nigerian man to make the final of the event and place among the first 10!.
Former African sprint queen, Okagbare will be making her fifth appearance in the IAAF World Championships and unlike in previous editions, the beautifully built 2014 double Commonwealth Games 100/200m champions will not be the athlete to lead Team Nigeria’s quest for podium appearances. Okagbare has not made the final of the sprint event in the two global events that followed the 2015 IAAF Worlds final where she placed last (eighth) in the 100m final. She fell at the semi-final stage at both the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Brazil and the 2017 IAAF Worlds in London.
This year, she has not broken 11 seconds in the 100m and her personal season’s best of 11.04 seconds may not be enough to get her into the final for the second championship running.
She however has a better chance in the 200m especially with Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller-Uibo opting to concentrate on the 400m.
Okagbare is the third fastest woman in the world over the distance so far this year but she has failed to race up to the incredible 22.05 seconds she ran in Palo Alto, California, USA at the end of the June where she out ran such big names as 2016 Olympics double sprint champions, Elaine Thompson of Jamaica, Dina Asher-Smith of England and flying Dutchwoman, Dafne Schippers at the Prefontaine IAAF Diamond League.
Since then, the Nigerian has raced twice over the distance and both have been uninspiring, running 22.83 seconds at the Muller Grand Prix in Birmingham in August and 22.62 seconds to place sixth at the Weltklasse IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich at the end of last month.
Interestingly, the 2008 Olympics long jump bronze medal winner has never won at the Khalifa International Stadium, venue of this IAAF World championships in seven visits for the IAAF Diamond League meetings. The best she has come up with are three second place finishes in 2013 in the long jump, 2014 in the 100m and 2018 also in the 100m where she ran her personal best (10.90 seconds) for the year. It seems the situation will not be different as the long-legged sprinter is not even sure of making it to the final of the blue ribband event.
Okagbare however remains Nigeria’s most successful athlete in the history of the championships and by extension Nigeria’s most successful athlete ever in all competitions.
She ended Nigeria’s 14-year wait for IAAF World Championships medal with a long jump silver and 200m bronze in Moscow, Russia in 2013. Prior to that, the last time Nigeria mounted the podium was in Seville, Spain in 1999 when the duo of Francis Obikwelu (200m) and Alozie (100m hurdles) won a bronze and a silver respectively.
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