Nigeria’s 5th Global Relay Medal was won in a race that is widely regarded as one of the greatest relay races of all time, the women’s 4×400 metres at Atlanta ’96. Those were truly the glory days for the women’s 400 metres in Nigeria, as the nation had no less than THREE sub-50 second quarter-milers in Fatima Yusuf, Charity Opara and Falilat Ogunkoya. They were joined by Olabisi Afolabi, who ran the first leg in this awesome quartet that fought Team USA right to the very end! This was one race that you thought Team Nigeria had in the bag after the first two legs, but somehow Ogunkoya received the baton on the anchor leg some 10 metres behind USA’s Jearl Miles, but she still made it a completely riveting contest:
Team Nigeria’s time of 3:21.04 in this race still stands as the African Record in the women’s 4×400 metres, and it will take some beating – Nigeria is the only country in Africa that has the pedigree, and the current potential in women’s 400 metres to one day match this epic quartet. That said, current Nigerian 400m Champion, Regina George is the only athlete in the current quartet running under 51 seconds – we’ll need at least THREE solid sub-50 second runners to match the class of ’96!
The jewel in the crown of the ’96 set was undoubtedly Falilat Ogunkoya, still the African Record Holder in the 400 metres at 49.10s, by virtue of her fantastic individual Bronze medal at the same games – she is one of only 3 Nigerians in history that are Double Olympic Medallists, and she has the unique distinction of being the only Nigerian to win TWO medals at the SAME Olympic Games! She made history by running under 50 seconds a whopping NINETEEN times in her career – even Great Britain’s greatest athlete, Christine Ohuruogu has only done it FIVE times in her whole career!
The World Relays is a new annual competition (the 1st edition being held in The Bahamas on May 24th/25th), where the world’s best Track & Field nations will compete over 10 different events – 4x100m, 4x200m, 4x400m, 4x800m & 4x1500m (both men and women). There is a total prize fund of $1.4 million up for grabs, and for the 4x100m & 4x400m, the 2014 World Relays will serve as the qualifiers for the 2015 World Championships (as will the 2015 World Relays for the 2016 Olympics). For viewers in Nigeria and Africa, the World Relays will show LIVE on SuperSports on May 24th/25th – more details soon!