By Dare Esan:
Reigning Africa’s fastest woman, Blessing Okagbare was the only big name missing Wednesday
morning when the 200m event of the 19th African Championships in Athletics got underway at
the Stade Grande de Marrakech in Marrakech, Morocco.
Okagbare holds a personal best and African lead of 22.23 seconds and would have been the
huge favourite for the gold medal at the championships.
In her absence the trio of Regina George (23.66),Dominique Duncan (23.99) and Gloria Asumnu (23.86) qualified for the semi-finals alongside Cote D’Ivoire’s 100m silver medal winner, Ahoure Murie who is now the favourite to win the title.
Asumnu has been drawn in lane six of the first semi finals,George will run from lane four in the second semi-final alongside Ahoure who will run from lane five while Duncan is in the third semi-finals and will run from three.
In the men’s version,junior international Divine Oduduru also zoomed into the semi-finals in 20.69 seconds alongside his compatriots,Seye Ogunlewe (21.39) and 100m silver medallist,American-Nigerian,Mark Jelks (21.12).
Also in the semi-finals which will be run later today are Botswana’s 400m gold medallist,Isaac Makwala (20.79) who ran the second fastest time in the first round and is the only African to have broken 20 seconds (19.96) so far this year;Adam Idrissa of Cameroun (20.84),Kenya’s Carvin Nkanata who holds the fastest time by an African in the event this year (20.17) and Lesotho’s Lehata Mosito (20.94) who came fourth in the finals (20.36) at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow at the end of last month.
Jelks however faces an upheal task to qualify for the final after being drawn in the first semis alongside apparently faster athletes,Lehata of Lesotho and Adam of Cameroun.
Ogunlewe is drawn against Makwala in the second semis while Oduduru will run in the third semifinals against Kenya’s Nkanata and South Africa’s Magakwe Simon.
Meanwhile Amaka Ogoegbunam will begin her chase for the 400m hurdles gold this evening and
has been drawn in lane eight of the very first of two heats and will contend for top spot in the race against South Africa’s Ebersohn Anneri who has run inside 56 seconds this year.
The reigning national champion is however expected to be one of the eight qualifiers for
the final which will be run tomorrow.
Also in the mix is Kemi Francis who has been drawn in the second heat alongside pre-race
favourite,South Africa’s Theron Nel Wenda who has broken 55 seconds this year.
Also scheduled for this evening are the men’s 110m hurdles final where the Nigerian trio of Al-Ameen Alex, Akins Tyron and Ogierakhi Martins have been drawn in lanes 3,4 and 5 and the men’s triple jump where the duo of Olumide Olamigoke and defending champio,Tosin Oke will be competing.