• Enekwechi faces tough hurdles in shot put final
• Heartbreak for Adekuoroye as Oduduru fails 200m test
Nigeria’s long jump bronze medallist, Ese Brume, hurdler Tobi Amusan and quartermiller, Patience-Okon George will compete in an unfamiliar terrain today, as the country’s 4x100m women relay team tries to negotiate its way into the medal zone at the ongoing Tokyo Olympics.
In Team Nigeria’s 4x100m women relay squad, only Grace Nwokocha is a natural sprinter. Brume, who won Nigeria’s first medal in Tokyo on Tuesday, was drafted into the relay squad alongside Amusan and George, as some members of the original team were among the 10 Nigerian athletes disqualified for infringing on anti-doping rules last week. The original team leader, Blessing Okagbare, has also been provisionally suspended for alleged doping violation.
Amusan finished in fourth position in the women’s 100m hurdles, while Nwokocha could not go past the 200m semifinals after running a personal best of 22.47 seconds. Patience-Okon George had earlier competed in Nigeria’s mixed 4x400m relay team.
The combination of a jumper, hurdler, quartermiller and a sprinter in the 4x100m relay team notwithstanding, the president of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Tonobok Okowa, is hoping that the team would pull a surprise.
“It is a relay event, and anything can happen,” Okowa told The Guardian in a telephone chat from Tokyo yesterday.
“I agree our women’s 4x100m relay team may not be strong following the disqualification of 10 athletes, but I still see hope in the squad we are parading. My prayer is that our baton exchange tomorrow (today) should be perfect. They are professionals and we have giving them all the necessary encouragement to boost their morale,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Team Nigeria will also focus on Chukwuebuka Enekwechi, as he competes for a medal in the men’s shot put final today. He threw 21.16m to enter the final on Tuesday.
Enekwechi will compet with Mesud Pezer of Bosnia and Hercegovina, Zane Weir of Italy, Kyle Blingnaut of South Africa, Jacko Gill and Tomas Walsh of New Zealand, Darlan Romani of Brazil, Mostafa Hassan of Egypt, Armin Sinancevic of Serbia and Peyton Otterdahl of the United States in the men’s shot put final.
Enekwechi, who is the 2018 Commonwealth Games Silver medallist and reigning African champion in shot put, is ranked fourth, which gave him one of the non-automatic qualifying spots for the final.
He is also the 2019 African Games champion and the reigning Nigerian National Sports Festival champion. Yesterday was a day of sorrow for Team Nigeria in Tokyo as the country’s biggest hope for a gold medal, Odunayo Adekuoroye, was surprisingly beaten by Moldova’s Anastasia Nichita. Adekuoroye’s conqueror is a wrestler the Nigerian had beaten in all their previous meetings.
Adekuoroye was already cruising to another win, leading 8-2 on points, before the unrated Nichita stunned her with a fall to win the bout via VFA (Victory by fall).
The only male wrestler in Team Nigeria, Ekereke Agiomor, lost 12-1 to India’s Deepak Punia in the Men’s Freestyle 86kg category.
It was another loss for Nigeria in the 200 metres men, Divine Oduduru, failed to qualify for the final of the event.