London Olympic Stadium will be a beehive of athletics events, when the world’s best athletes in track and field converge for the biennial IAAF World Championships, which will kick-off on August 4th.
The Championship is the world’s biggest athletics fiesta and will witness several renowned stars compete, in order to bring not just honour to their respective countries but individual glory as well, by being crowned World Champions or Medalists.
Team Nigeria athletes won’t be left out of action, as the IAAF has released the entry list of those the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) has chosen to don the colors of the country and do the nation proud.
Here’s a preview of each athlete, the events they’ll be participating in, their chances of medaling, and who their stiffest competitors will be in their quest at challenging for a medal.
Nigeria’s queen of track, Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor and Jeannifer Madu will represent the country, with the former being the country’s best hope for a medal in the event.
Blessing will be making her fourth competitive appearance at the IAAF flagship event, and will be aiming for her first world’s 100m medal to compliment her Silver medal in the long jump, accompanied by a 200m Bronze at the 2013 edition in Moscow, Russia.
This year, the Nigerian has had a series of good performances with the most impressive being at the London Diamond League, where she clocked 10.99s to finish 3rd behind Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson and Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers. The time is currently ranked 13th on the IAAF world list, and a repeat or a better performance in the same stadium, will see her get to the finals and probably finish higher than her 8th place two years ago in Beijing.
Madu on the other hand has a Season’s Best (SB) time of 11.31s, which will definitely need her to produce a faster time if she’s to progress to the semifinals.
Their stiffest competitors will be in reigning Olympic 100m Champion, Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson, USA’s 100m Champion Tori Bowie, 2015 Silver medallist Schippers, while not forgetting the Ivorian duo of Marie Jose Ta Lou and Murielle Ahoure.
Women’s 100m Hurdles
Just like the straight sprints, two athletes have been listed by the IAAF to represent the country. They are NCAA Champion, Tobi Amusan and 2016 National Champion, Lindsey Lindley.
Amusan is the new sprints sensation Nigeria boasts of as the youngster has produced record breaking performances in the past two years representing her school, University of Texas, El Paso(UTEP).
One of her ground breaking feats was storming to the 2017 NCAA 100m hurdles title in a Personal Best (PB) of 12.57s, the time is the second fastest by a Nigerian or African woman in the sprint hurdles behind Glory Alozie’s National Record (NR) of 12.44s, and currently ranks her on No.7 on the IAAF world list.
She’ll be making her senior debut at the World Championships, and will be a major medal contender when she lines up on the track against the world’s best in the field, such as World Record (WR) holder Kendra Harrison and defending World Champion, Danielle Williams.
Lindley has also proven that 2017 is her best career year ever, equaling her PB’s on several occasions. The former Nigerian Champion currently has a PB of 12.90s, and by her show of competitiveness this season, a further drop in her time may witness the nation having two finallists in the event, for the first time in the history of the Championships.
The one lap event has the highest number of athletes that’ll don the colours of the country at the Championship. Five quarter-milers hit the qualifying marks for eligibility to compete, but due to the IAAF rules only three slots are available to be entered by each country, asides of course those with wild cards of either being Continental Champions or Diamond League Champions.
The Nigerian team will have only three participants in Patience Okon-George, Yinka Ajayi and Margaret Bambgose.
Okon-George is currently Nigeria’s fastest 400m runner this season having a SB of 51.06s, which she incidentally set on her way to defending her National title few weeks ago in Abuja. She has a PB of 50.71s, and will be gunning to at least get to the final which is a step higher than her semifinal exit in Beijing, China two years ago.
Ajayi may be the youngest of the trio but she has proven to be one of Nigeria’s breakout athletes in 2017, lowering her times on several occasions this year, with the most recent being at the Warri Relays in Delta State, where she clocked another PB of 51.30s for the win.
The 20-year old who’s a Silver medallist at this year’s All-Nigerian Championships, will be making her first IAAF senior debut and might just be the underdog to deliver a string of upsets at the Championship.
Bamgbose just like Ajayi , will be making her World Championship debut in London. She was a Bronze medalist at the 2016 Nigerian Championships, and a semifinalist in the event at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. The- US-based athlete is the country’s third fastest in the event with a SB of 51.57s, and played a major role in the quartet that ensured the Nigerian 4x400m relay team qualified for the event in London.
When the Championships kicks off, the men’s 400m is expected to be one of the most anticipated events, with two African giants in Wayde Van Niekerk of South Africa and Botswana’s Isaac Makwala going head to head against each other.
Van Niekerk is the WR holder in the event, a feat he achieved at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Though he’s the favourite for the win, but Makwala has recently proven he’s ready for an upset, after he nearly upstaged the South African at the Monaco Diamond League, racing to a SB of 43.84s while the later got the win in 43.73s.
However, the Nigerian focus will be on her only representative, Samson Nathaniel. The reigning National Champion will be making his first appearance and will hope to make it a memorable one by dropping his PB of 45.23s, a time which may get him through to the semifinals or even the final of the event.
Women’s 400m Hurdles
Not many would have expected this, but this event also has only one Nigerian athlete in Glory Nathaniel, who happens to be the elder sister of Samson Nathaniel competing in the men’s 400m. If the two eventually get to compete in London, they’ll become Nigeria’s first siblings in 18 years to participate at the World Championships.
The former Nigerian youth international will also be making her debut and currently has a PB of 55.90s, which she set on her way to winning the Silver medal at the Islamic Games in Baku this year. She’ll be aiming to give her life’s best performance when she lines up on the track against the best in the field such as USA’s duo of Dalilah Muhammed and Shamier Little.
Field Events (Women’s Long Jump)
Reigning Commonwealth Champion, Ese Brume is also a debutant at the Championship. The National Champion has a SB leap of 6.64m, and to the surprise of many placed 5th (6.81m) at last year’s Olympic Games. Brume has proven to be a big Championship performer and cannot be written off to put up another surprise by challenging for a medal.
Interestingly, Okagbare-Ighoteguonor will also be competing in this event having qualified by virtue of her SB of 6.77m. She won a Silver medal four years ago, and it’ll be mouth-watering from the Nigerian perspective to see the challenge both women will pose against the world’s best jumpers.
Men’s Shot Put
2016 National Champion, Chukwuebuka Enekwechi will be making his first international bow for the country in London, following his impressive 21.07m throw in Cork, Republic of Ireland just two weeks ago.
The 24-year old will have his sight set on making the final, and probably throw farther than Stephen Mozia’s NR of 21.77m.
Team Nigeria has been listed to participate in just the women’s 4x400m and 4x100m. The quarter-mile relay team qualified by virtue of making the final at the World Relays in Bahamas back in May.
Listed to pose a medal challenge in the event are: Okon-George, Ajayi, Bamgbose, with the duo of Nathaniel and Abike Egbeniyi added to complete the team. The athletes have the brightest chance on paper of coming back home with a medal, but will be aware of the challenge posed by the Jamaicans and Americans, while Bahamas will have their Olympic Champion, Shaunae Miller-Uibo ready to upstage for the top three position.
In the 4x100m, Okagbare-Ighoteguonor will spear head the team alongside Madu, Lindley, Isoken Igbinosun, Maria Thompson, Alphonsus Aniekeme and Mercy Ntia-Obong.
Speaking on the team released to represent the country in London, the newly elected AFN President, Ibrahim Shehu Gusau had this to say “I have a big dream. I am looking forward to when we shall return Nigeria to the height and space of leadership. We shall begin the preparation for the next Championships as soon as we return from London. For us, London is a good ground for us to experiment and transit, that we shall do.”
100m – Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor and Jennifer Madu.
100m Hurdles – Tobi Amusan and Lindsey Lindley
400m – Patience Okon-George, Yinka Ajayi and Margaret Bamgbose
400m Hurdles – Glory Onome Nathaniel
Long Jump – Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor and Ese Brume
4x100m – Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor, Jennifer Madu, Lindsey Lindley, Isoken Igbinosun, Maria Thompson, Alphonsus Aniekeme and Mercy Ntia-Obong.
4x400m – Patience Okon-George, Yinka Ajayi, Margaret Bamgbose, Abike Egbeniyi and Glory Nathaniel.
400m – Samson Nathaniel
Shot Put – Chukwuebuka Enekwechi