Team Nigeria started the 2022 World Athletics Championships taking place in Oregon, United States, on a fairly impressive note on Friday afternoon.
Three years after the spectacle in Doha, Qatar, the world’s best athletes are in the United States to compete for honors in Athletics’ biggest event outside the Olympic Games.
Team Nigeria had a busy opening day with representation in the men’s Shot Put and women’s Hammer Throw, as well as the mixed 4x400m and the men’s 100m heats.
But the country’s first attempt at a podium finish suffered a setback. It was nonetheless commendable as the Mixed Relay team made it to the end of the event where they finished in sixth position.
The quartet of Samson Nathaniel, Imaobong Nse Uko, Dubem Amene, and Patience Okon-George posted a time of 3:16.21 to finish in the sixth position.
Team Dominican Republic won with a world-leading time of 3:09.82 ahead of Team Netherlands and USA. USA led the race until the last 30m when they were overtaken and the Netherlands almost pipped the Dominican Republic on the line in what was the USA’s Allyson Felix’s last race before retirement.
To make it to the final, the same Nigerian quartet ran a season’s best time of 3:14.59, placing fifth in their heat which saw them progress as one of the two fastest times outside of the automatic qualifying zones.
There was something to cheer about for Nigeria in the men’s 100m event where two of the country’s three entrants qualified for the semi-finals.
Though he didn’t have a smooth outing while he was in Nigeria for the National trials held in Benin City, Raymond Ekevwo had it fairly good in his first race in Oregon.
The reigning African Games champion finished third in the first heat, won by Marvin Bracy (10.05s), with a time of 10.17s, taking an automatic qualifying spot.
It was even better for Nigeria’s current fastest man, Favor Ashe, who had a blistering performance in his own heat; returning at a time of 10.00s.
Though he finished in fourth place, and narrowly missed out on automatic qualification, his fast time ensured he secured a berth in the semifinals nonetheless.
Unfortunately, Udodi Onwuzurike, Nigeria’s third entrant in the 100m, could only manage a sixth place finish in Heat 6 with a time of 10.26s. This was not enough for him to pull through like his other compatriots.
Having now missed out on the 100m, Onwuzurike who is the reigning 200m World U-20 Champion will switch focus to the 200m and the 4x100m relay events.
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Away from the tracks, two Nigerians – Chukwuebuka Enekwechi and Dotun Ogundeji – were in action in the men’s Shot Put event.
While the former progressed into the final having landed a 20.87m throw, the latter with his best throw of 18.35m could not make it out of the second qualifying pool.
The African Champion in the women’s Hammer Throw, Sade Olatoye, made history as Nigeria’s first-ever participant in this event at the World Championships.
But her dream of making the final in her first historic outing was not achieved as she finished 13th in her qualification group with a mark of 64.82m.
The tournament continues on Saturday.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism