Nigeria’s 4×100 metres team at the ongoing World Athletics Championships in Oregon, United States broke the 30-year-old African record in that event on Sunday morning.
The quartet of Joy Udo-Gabriel, Favour Ofili, Rosemary Chukwuma and Grace Nwokocha ran the race of their lives in the final with a time of 42.22 seconds to break the long-standing 42.39 seconds national/African record set by their compatriots, Christy Opara-Thompson, Faith Idehen, Beatrice Utondu and Mary Onyali at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics where Nigeria ended with a bronze medal.
Udo-Gabriel, whose inclusion in the team was questioned by some critics, shut her critics up for the umpteenth time with a well-executed first leg race before handing over to Ofili who sustained the momentum.
Then it was the turn of Chukwuma for the third leg and she did well before handing over to Nwokocha who finished off brilliantly.
Unfortunately, despite their record-breaking race, the Nigerian ladies still did not make it to the podium as they finished fourth behind the United States who won with a fast time of 41.14 seconds.
Jamaica and Germany were second and third respectively.
Sunday was the first time in 11 years that the Nigeria women’s relay team participated in the final of the championships.
Nigeria had originally lost out on competing in the women’s relay events before they literally sneaked in.
New doping infractions established against Blessing Okagbare knocked Nigeria off the last qualification spot they were occupying on the eve of the closure for qualifying entries for Oregon.
Okagbare and three others ran a time of 42.97 seconds at the Yaba College of Technology Sports Complex, Lagos and that had kept them in the last qualification spot up until the unfortunate development.
However, France, one of the sixteen teams that qualified ahead of Nigeria, eventually pulled out to make a way for Nigeria to not just come on board but to set a new African record.
Despite not picking a medal in Oregon, the relatively young Nigerian women’s relay team would be hoping to get it right at the Commonwealth Games starting this week in Birmingham, and subsequent global meets especially at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
Meanwhile Tobiloba Amusan also set a new African record in the 100 metres women’s hurdles as she won heat 3 at 12.40 seconds (+1.5).
Believed to be one of Nigeria’s medal hopefuls at the championships, Amusan has given reason for even more optimism in the stunning fashion in which she progressed to the semi-finals.
While this is her third straight semifinals in World Athletics Championships history, she would be more fulfilled winning a medal this time.
After her race on Saturday, Amusan wrote on her Facebook: “God is working His purpose out. 12.42s—>12.41s—>12.40s
“Glad to have broken the African Record THREE times. I don’t know why it’s coming by 0.01s each time.
“I am trusting God through the rounds”!
Having eclipsed Gloria Alozie’s 12.44 seconds record at the Championships, Amusan, who is the reigning African champion and record holder, is now bidding to become the second Nigerian woman to win a World Championships medal in this event. Alozie won the silver medal at the championships’ seventh edition in Seville, Spain in 1999.
Amusan, 25, is the reigning African Games, African Championships, Commonwealth Games, and Diamond League champion. However, she has been a bit unlucky in the World Championships and Olympics where her best finish was fourth place in Doha and Tokyo.