Nigeria became 4x200m World Relay Champions on Saturday Night as the quartet of Blessing Okagbare, Regina George, Dominique Duncan and Christy Udoh set a New National Record of 1:30.52s to become Nigeria’s new Golden Girls. It was a race where the Allyson Felix-led USA and a Jamaican team comprising the likes of Veronica Campbell-Brown were favoured to carry the first two positions, but Team Nigeria soundly upset the favourites the carry the day in a World Leading time this year for the seldom run 2-lap relay.
World 200m Bronze Medallist, Blessing Okagbare got Nigeria’s Golden Girls off to a perfect start in Lane 4. Despite the very long stagger in the 4x200m, it was clear by the time she handed off to Regina George that she had closed the gap on the Bahamians in Lane 5. George had decided to sit out the women’s 4x400m just minutes earlier to stay fresh for the 4x200m, the decision seemed to pay off as she safely handed the baton to African 200m Bronze Medallist, Duncan, who ran solid 3rd leg, to give 2012 Olympian for Nigeria, Udoh, the lead to defend in the final 200 metres.
Udoh was able to hold off the approaching Bahamians at the end, who were later disqualified, leaving Sherone Simpson to bring Jamaica home in second in 1:31.73s, with Germany finishing in 3rd in 1:33.61s. Team USA did not finish the race, as Jeneba Tarmoh and Alysson Felix collided on their final changeover. With this GOLD medal at the 2015 World Relays, Team Nigeria has already surpassed its performance from the inaugural edition last year, where the team came home with a solitary Bronze medal in the women’s 4x400m.
Nigeria’s Golden Girls saved the country’s blushes on Day 1 of the World Relays, as until that point, Nigeria’s teams had flattered to deceive on the night. The men’s 4x100m team did not start their heat, a race which included none other than Top Sprinter Coach Francis Obikwelu, still competing for Portugal some eleven years after winning Olympic 100m Silver for his adopted country!
Nigeria’s 4x400m men, comprising Orukpe Erayokan, Robert Simmons, Chris Morton and Miles Ukoama finished 7th in Heat 2 in 3:06.92s, while the 4x400m women, parading a much changed quartet from the Bronze medal winning team last year – Rita Ossai, Patience Okon George, Ibukun Mayungbe and Ngozi Onwumere – could only manage 4th in Heat 1 in a time of 3:32.16, also missing out on the finals tomorrow, and an automatic place in the 4x400m at the Rio Olympics next year.
In addition to Nigeria’s fantastic 4x200m GOLD, the other highlight of the evening was undoubtedly Team USA overhauling a Usain Bolt anchored Jamaica to win the men’s 4x100m in a Championship Record of 37.38s. In a repeat of the anchor leg from London 2012 Olympics where Jamaica set the World Record, Usain Bolt went head-to-head with Ryan Bailey on the final straight, but this time the result was reversed – Bolt was not able to overhaul the lead that Bailey’s teammates had given him, and Jamaica was forced to settle for 2nd place with a Season’s Best of 37.68s.
Having also triumphed over Jamaica in the 4x100m at the Penn Relays a week ago, Team USA truly have the belief now that they have broken Jamaica’s dominance on the 1-lap relay. On Day 2 of the World Relays, the 2 top sprint nations will once again lock horns in the 4x200m, and Usain Bolt will be hoping that Team Jamaica can exact immediate revenge on the Americans.
Conversely, Okagbare will be hoping to lead Team Nigeria to yet another medal in the women’s 4x100m this time, after missing out on Bronze by a hundredth of a second last year. Can Nigeria’s team gain an automatic qualifying spot for the Rio Olympics by finishing in the Top 8 teams on Sunday, and also win a medal this time around? We won’t have long to find out!