Nigeria’s dream of a medal at the 14TH IAAF World Championships appears to be just hours away as the country’s brightest hope, Blessing Okagbare, goes into the long jump pit this evening here in Moscow to fish for the elusive gold medal.
Gloria Alozie and Francis Obikwelu won the country’s last silver and bronze medals in the women’s 100m hurdles and men’s 200m of the 1999 edition in Sevilla, Spain respectively. Ironically, both athletes retired competing in the colours of Portugal and Spain.
To set the stage for the gold medal hunt at the Luzhniki Stadium here in the heart of Moscow, Okagbare who is also focused on both the 100m and 200m, did just one jump of 6.83m yesterday to qualify as the athlete with the second best jump of the day.
Only Great Britain’s Shara Proctor (6.85m) bettered Okagbare’s jump going into the battle for the podium Ninday.
American jumper, Tori Polk, was third. Favourite for the gold medal, Olympic champion Britney Reese almost missed the cut with her 6.57m. Another former Nigerian jumper, Funmi Jimoh who jumped the same 6.57m as Reese missed qualification.
Okagbare has a season’s best of 7.04m in Monaco. She had earlier done 7.14m that would have erased the 7.12m with which Chioma Ajunwa won the gold medal of the event at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games but for illegal tail wind of +2.2.
If she wins the gold today, it will be Nigeria’s first in the history of the country’s participation in the World Championships since the first edition in Helsinki, Finland in 1983 where Ajayi Agbebaku bronze home a precious bronze medal in the triple jump.
Also Saturday, two Nigerian quarter milers, Regina George and Omolara Omotosho made it to the semi finals of the women’s 400m event.
While Omotosho narrowly made the cut with her 51.98sec as fourth in her heat, George was beaten with few metres to end the race by world defending champion, Amantle Montsho of Botswana to settle for the second position.
Nigerian-born Christine Ohuruogu posted the best leading time of 50.20secs to set up a potential war with Montsho who denied her the gold medal at the last edition in Daegu, South Korea, two years ago.
The story was however not a palatable one for Nigeria’s lone entry in the men’s 100m. Ogho Oghene-Egwero placed fifth in his heat to crash out in the first round of the ongoing Moscow 2013.
Olympic and World Record holder, Jamaican Usain Bolt, ran a calm but steady race in the first round to qualify for the semi final here today. The fastest man of edition will be decided this evening with everyone pointing in the direction of the lanky Jamaican as the one to beat here.
Two years ago, Bolt was disqualified for beating the gun to open doors for his training partner, Yohan Blake to profit. Blake is not here same as American Tyson Gay who has the season’s leading time of 9.79. Former champion Asafa Powell is also out like Gay due to dope infractions.
In the men’s 10,000m final decided yesterday, Great Britain’s double Olympic champion, Mo Farah, showed the stuff he’s made of, winning easily in 27 mins 21.71secs while Ethiopian Ibrahim Jelan (27 mins 22.23 secs) and Paul Tanui of Ethiopia (27mins 22.61secs) picked the silver and bronze medals respectively.
Earlier in the morning, Kenyan Edna Ngeringwony Kiplagat won the first gold medal of this edition in the women’s marathon. She clocked 2 mins 25.44secs to pick the prized medal while Italian Valeria Straneo (2min 25.58) and Kayako Fukushi of Japan (2mins 27.45secs) settled for the silver and bronze medals respectively.