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World Athletics U-20: Onwuzurike, Ofili Qualify For Men And Women’s 200m Final

World Athletics U-20: Onwuzurike, Ofili Qualify For Men And Women’s 200m Final

Udodi Chudi Onwuzurike laid down a marker for the men’s 200m final when he ran a wind-aided 20.13 seconds as he aims to become the sixth Nigerian to qualify for the half lap final at the World Athletics U-20 Championships.

Accompanied by his father to the ongoing World Athletics U-20 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya, Onwuzurike left no one in doubt about his mission to Nairobi which is to succeed Francis Obikwelu as the next Nigerian World U-20 champion in the 200m.

The 18 year old started on an impressive note, setting a new personal best of 20.47 seconds to win his first round heat and qualify for the semifinal.

In the semifinal, the high school graduate stormed to a 20.13 seconds to qualify for Saturday’s final.

Standing between Onwuzurike and a second World U-20 200m gold 25 years after Obikwelu won in Sydney are two Africans, Bostwana’s reigning World U-20 100m champion, Leslie Tebogo who ran a new 20.31 personal best to qualify for the final and Uganda’s Tarsis Orogot who scorched to a new 20.37 national record in the semifinal.

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Interestingly, all Nigerian athletes who have made the final of the event ended up at the podium starting with Olapade Adeniken who won a silver medal (20.88s) in 1988 in Sudbury, Canada. He was followed by Davidson Ezinwa two years later in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. He also won a silver medal (20.75s) to add to the 100m gold he won a few days earlier.

Deji Aliu followed in the right footsteps of his predecessors four years later in Lisbon, Portugl, running 20.88 seconds to win the silver medal. This was after he had annexxed the 100m gold a few days earlier. Then came Obikwelu who made history as the second man after Trinidad and Tobago’s Ato Boldon and first African to successfully complete a sprint double at the championships. He won both the 100m (10.21) and 200m (20.47) gold.

It took Nigeria eight years to produce a fifth medallist in the event in the form of Divine Oduduru whose wind-aided 20.25 seconds return also landed him on the podium as a silver medal winner.
Onwuzurike will however feel it is the gold this time as he will attempt to break the 20.17 seconds championships record set by USA’s Michael Norman in Bydgoszcz, Poland in 2016.

Saturday will not be about Onwuzurike alone as Favour Ofili will also take to the women’s 200m stage to attempt rewriting the Nigerian history books in the event 35 years after Falilat Ogunkoya wrote a golden chapter in Athens, Greece at the inaugural edition of the World Athletics U-20 championships.

The 18 year old Ofili ran the second fastest time (20.37s) in the semifinal and will stand as one of the favourites for the gold medal when the athletes file out for the final on Saturday.

The Nigerian has been drawn in lane five in the final, sandwiched by her two greatest adversaries, the Namibian duo of Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi.

Mboma, fresh from her surprise 200m silver medal win and a 21.81 African record run at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics early this month is drawn in the outside lane (six) to the Nigerian while her compatriot, Masilingi who raced to a new 20.19 seconds Championships record is drawn in lane four for what should be the greatest 200m race in the history of the championships.

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