By Dare Esan:
Quartermiler Yinka Ajayi faces a tough act to follow. She is aiming to become the second Nigerian woman after Fatima Yusuf to win the 400m gold at the Commonwealth Games.
Yusuf won the full lap gold as a junior international in 1990 in Auckland, two years after she failed to make the podium at the IAAF World Juniors in Ontario, Canada.
Last year Ajayi also failed to move beyond the semi-finals at the IAAF Worlds in London. Could she use the experience in London to propel her to an unlikely gold at Gold Coast 2018?
The Nigerian ran 51.81 seconds to make this Wednesday’s final at the Carrara Stadium.It is the eighth best return among the eight finalists who are all eager to be crowned 2018 Commonwealth Games champions.
Amongst them is the defending champion Jamaica’s Stephenie Ann McPherson, who is the only athlete who has run inside 51 seconds at the Games. Her 50.80 seconds run in the first round is the fastest time so far run in the event.
Also in contention is another former champion, Botswana’s Amantle Monthso, who won the gold eight years ago in India. Monthso is joined by her country woman Christine Botlogetswe who ran a new 51.41 seconds personal best in the semis.
Jamaica’s Anastasia Le-Roy who ran he fastest time in the semi-finals (51.08 seconds) is favoured alongside her compatriot Ann McPherson.
Le-Roy ran the first leg in the 4x400m semi-final for Jamaica at the World Championships last year in London before Ann McPherson ran the third leg in the final to lead Jamaica to gold.
Kenya’s Maximila Imali is also ahead of the Nigerian on paper following her 51.52 seconds run in the semi-finals.In fact she holds a lifetime best of 51.18 seconds against Ajayi’s 51.22 seconds which she achieved this year.
Ajayi will need a miracle to make the podium and become the third Nigerian quartermiler to achieve the feat after Yusuf and Charity Opara (bronze in 1990).
Also on Wednesday, Precious Okoronkwor will try to attempt to follow in Ese Brume’s footsteps who leapt to gold four years ago in the women’s long jump in Glasgow, Scotland.
Unlike Brume however, Okoronkwor, with a personal best of 6.43m, has not shown the promise Brume showed as a junior athlete before becoming Commonwealth champions.
In the Javelin throw Kelechi Nwanaga, with a personal best of 58.15m, will be seeking to upset such favourites as South Africa’s Olympics silver and World Championships bronze medallist, Sunette Viljoen, who has twice been crowned Commonwealth Games champions (2006,2010) and was a silver medallist in the event four years ago;Olympics and Worlds finalist Kathryn Mitchell of Australia who has a personal best of 68.57m,another Aussie,Kelsey-Lee Roberts who has done 64.57m in the event and was third in Glasgow in Glasgow four years ago as well as Canada’s Elizabeth Gleadle who was fifth in Glasgow and holds a personal best on 64.83m.
In the men’s 200m semi-finals fast-rising Emmanuel Arowolo will seek to become the seventh Nigerian to run in the final of the half lap race if he overcomes the near insurmountable hurdles before him in the first semi-final.South Africa’s wonder boy Clarence Munyai who holds the world lead at 19.69 seconds leads the pack of those insurmopuntable hurdles a 20.85 seconds runner the Nigerian is will have to scale over.
For the women, the duo of Praise Idamadudu and Isoken Igbinosun will also have to break 22 seconds to have a chance of joining the duo of Mary Onyali (silver in 1994) and Blessing Okagbare (gold in 2014) as women who made it to the final of the event.
The road seems rougher for Idamadudu who has been drawn in the same semi-final heat as Jamaica’s reigning Olympics double sprints champion Elaine Thompson who holds a 21.98 seconds personal best and Bahamas Shaunae Miller-Uibo who was third in the 200m at the World Championships in the 200m last year.
Miller-Uibo holds a 21.88 personal best against the Nigerian’s 23.48 seconds.
Meanwhile Blessing Ibrahim and Queen Obisesan finished fifth in the women’s triple jump and Hammer throw respectively.
Ibrahim leapt a distance of 13.48m in her second of six attempts to seal fifth place in an event Jamaica’s Kimberly Williams retains her title with a 14.64m personal best.
Obisesan failed to replicate her 66.86m national record-breaking feat in Abuja in February as she could only throw 63.84m to place fifth.
A repeat of her Auja feat would have fetched her the bronze, Nigeria’s first ever medal in the event ahead of home girl Lara Nielsen who threw 65.03m.