Nigeria’s Shot Put record holder, Chukwuebuka Enekwechi made history on Thursday by becoming the first Nigerian, man or woman, to qualify for the final of the event in the history of the IAAF World Championships, Completesports.com reports.
The USA-based Enekwechi threw 20.94m,four centimetres above the 20.90m qualification mark set by the IAAF with his second and final throw of the evening after opening with a rather mediocre 20.12m to seal his spot in the final.
The double African champion (2018 African Championships and 2019 All Africa Games) will now be looking to become the first man to make the podium when the final is held at the Khalifa international stadium in Doha, Qatar on Saturday.
Enekwechi will however need to throw above the 21.80m personal best and national record he set last August in Schifflange, Luxembourgas six of the 11 athletes he will compete against in the final have thrown above 22m this year led by defending champion,Tomas Walsh of New Zealand who holds a personal season’s best of 22.44m and 2016 Olympics king, Ryan Cousser of theUSA who has thrown 22.74m this year.
Two other Americans, Darrell Hill (22.35m) and Joe Kovacs (22.31m) as well as Polish athlete,Konrad Bukowiecki (22.25m) and Brazil’s Darlan Romani (22.61m) have also thrown above 22m this year.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s 4x100m relay teams will begin their quest for a return to the podium 22 years after the men’s quartet of Osmond Ezinwa, Olapade Adeniken, Francis Obikwelu and Davidson Ezinwa ran 38.07 seconds to become the first and so far only 400m relay team to win an IAAF Worlds medal with their silver medal effort at the Olympic Stadium in Athens, Greece in 1997.
Since that time the closest the men’s team have come to staging a return was 16 years ago when the quartet of Olusoji Fasuba, Uchenna Emedolu, Musa Deji and Deji Aliu placed fourth in Paris, France.
On Friday in Doha,the quartet of Divine Oduduru (9.86 seconds),Raymond Ekevwo (9.96 seconds), Utshoritse Itsekiri (10.02 seconds) and Seun Ogunlewe (10.12 seconds) will attempt to return Nigeria to the final 12 years after the country last made an appearance.
They will however have to run faster than the 38.59 seconds they ran in Rabat to win the silver medal at the All Africa Games in Rabat last AUgust to stand a chance of picking one of the three automatic slots on offer.
Japan and the Netherlands are the only two countries that have broken 38 seconds in the second semi-final where Nigeria will be competing.
China with 38.16 seconds season’s best and Canada who have also been impressive with a 38.26 seconds best this season are also favoured to go through ahead of Nigeria.
If the men’s 400m relay team is facing a tough hurdle to scale,the women’s own is tougher. Blessing Okagbare is the only athlete in the quartet who has broken 11.1 this year while the others are in Doha brandishing 11.4,11.6,11.7 personal season’s bests in a semi-final heat that has Germany who have broken 42 seconds (41.67 seconds) this year and three others that have ran inside 43 seconds. They are Jamaica (42.29 seconds),China (42.31 seconds) and Great Britain (42.30 seconds).
For Nigeria to qualify for the final eight years after placing seventh in Daegu, South Korea, Okagbare will have to inspire a sub-43 seconds performance.
The reigning African 200m record holder was not in the team that ran 43.49 seconds to win the gold medal at the All Africa Games in Rabat, Morocco and her presence can return Nigeria to the final of the event.
Nigeria has placed fourth twice in the event, first in 1991 when Beatrice Utondu, Rufina Ubah, Christy Opara-Thompson and Mary Onyali ran 42.7 in Tokyo,Japan and later in 2001 in Edmonton,Canada where Onyali again anchored the quartet made up of herself,Chioma Ajunwa, Endurance Ojokolo and Mercy Nku to a 42.52 seconds finish.
By Dare Esan
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