Nigeria’s Favour Ofili and American sprinter Aby Steiner have taken their rivalry to the biggest athletics stage in the world after they are paired together in the third semifinal heat of the women’s 200m event on Tuesday.
The Nigerian played second fiddle twice to the American at the NCAA indoor and outdoor championships this year and both will clash again for the first time at the World Athletics Championships chasing the two automatic tickets on offer for the final.
Ofili ran 22.46 seconds to come second behind Steiner at the indoor championships in Alabama in March while the Nigerian ran her second fastest career best of 22.05 seconds to also come second behind the American incidentally at the Hayward Field in Oregon last month.
The fight for the two automatic tickets on offer won’t be between the duo alone as five time World 100m champion, Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pyrce is also in the mix.
The Jamaican won the 100m gold on Monday night and will be gunning for her second sprint double at the Championships after successfully completing the sprint double in 2013 in Moscow, Russia.
Steiner is the fastest of the three this year with the 21.77 seconds she ran to win the US Championships last month while Ofili is second fastest with the 21.96 seconds Nigerian record she ran in Gainesville, Florida in April.
Fraser-Pyrce is third fastest with her 22.14 personal season’s best she ran at the Jamaican National Championships last month in Kingston, Jamaica.
Ofili will be looking to make her first World Athletics Championships final after exiting at the semifinal stage three years ago in Doha, Qatar in the 400m.
If she qualifies for the final, she will be only the fourth Nigerian woman to run in the final of the event after Mary Onyali (1987,1993 and 1995, Fatimah Yusuf (1999) and Blessing Okagbare (2013).
Ofili will not be the only Nigerian woman in action in the event as the duo of Rosemary Chukwuma and Grace Nwokocha will also be targeting their first global final in any individual event.
Chukwuma will run in the first semifinal heat and will battle not just the African duo of Gina Bass of Gambia and Aminatou Seyni who ran a new Nigerien record (21.98) in the first round.
The time makes her only the third African to run inside 22 seconds over the half lap after Namibian Christine Mboma who owns the continent’s all-time best time of 21.78 seconds.
The Nigerian will also have to race past USA’s Jenna Prandini and Shericka Jackson of Jamaica, the world leader in the event at 21.55 seconds.
Nwokocha will need to be at her best and possibly run inside 22 seconds to stand a chance of making the final after she is has been drawn with reigning Olympic champion in the event, Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah, reigning World champion Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain, Tamara Clark of the USA and Beatrice Masilingi of Namibia.
By Dare Esan
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