The last time Nigeria got to the podium of the World Indoor Championships was in 2008 when Olusoji Fasuba stormed to the men’s 60m title with a World Lead (WL) of 6.51m in Valencia, becoming the first African in history to accomplish this feat.
The country’s contingent of 18 athletes will be hoping to turn things around in Portland when the 16th edition of the championship gets underway from March 17 to 20 at the Oregon Convention Centre in the US.
At least 148 nations will be represented at the biennial championship, and Nigeria will feature in ten events: the Women’s 60m Hurdles, Women’s High Jump, Women’s Shot Put, Men’s Triple Jump, Men’s Shot Put, Men’s 60m, Men’s 400m, Women’s 400m, Men’s 4x400m and Women’s 4x400m relay.
Going by current form, the country’s brightest prospect of a medal is in the men’s Shot put, an event, which incidentally, hasn’t secured a World Championships medal (indoor or outdoor) for Nigeria before.
As such, Stephen Mozia will be aiming to enter the history books as the first African (male or female) to get to the podium of the World Indoor Championships. The 22-year old broke the National Record (NR) twice this year, recording two WL throws over 21m, with his Personal Best (PB) currently standing at 21.11m.
He comes to Portland in 6th position on the world rankings and will be facing the likes of USA champion Kurt Roberts (No.2, 21.57m); Poland’s Michal Haratyk (No.3, 21.35m); Canada’s Tim Nedow (No.4, 21.33m) and Tomáš Stanek of the Czech Republic (No.5, 20.30m).
This will be Mozia’s second outing at the World Indoors after competing in Sopot two years ago where he placed 17th in the qualifying round, and didn’t advance to the final. The experience would no doubt come in handy when he takes on the rest of the field on Day 2.
Nigerian and African Games champion, Claire Uke will be hoping to do some justice in the women’s event as well. This is Uke’s second international assignment for Nigeria and first outing at the World Indoors.
Nigeria’s first participant at Portland 2016 will be Orukpe Erayokan who is set to compete in the men’s 400m on Day 2 (Friday) of the competition. His team mate in the women’s event, Patience Okon-George will follow 50 minutes later.
Both athletes are the sole entrants in their respective events, and will also be expected to play pivotal roles in the 4x400m relays.
This is Orukpe’s first time of competing in the World Indoors, and he will be rubbing shoulders with Sopot 2014 GOLD and Silver and Bronze medallists in the event, Pavel Maslak, Chris Brown of the Bahamas and USA’s Kyle Clemons.
World leader, Bralon Taplin of Grenada (45.20s) and Trinidad and Tobago’s Lalonde Gordon (No.2, 45.51s) will be at hand to provide the much-needed rivalry, which is expected to make the men’s 400m one of the most anticipated events in Portland.
Incidentally, Late Sunday Bada won the 400m title at the 1997 edition of the World Indoors in Paris with an African Record of 45.51s. Falilat Ogunkoya on the other hand, won Silver in the women’s event two years later in Maebashi, Japan.
Okon-George will compete in the individual event for the first time at the World Indoors, having participated in the relays only in Sopot. She will once again face her familiar foe, Kabange Mupopo of Zambia who denied the Nigerian the continental title at last year’s African Games.
But posing an even bigger threat is Bahrain’s Nigeria-born Kemi Adekoya who is 7th in the world with an Asian Indoor Record of 51.67s. USA’s pair of Quanera Hayes and Ashley Spencer currently occupy the 2nd and 3rd spots on the 2016 world rankings with 51.09s and 51.29s respectively.
They follow NCAA champion, Courtney Okolo who leads the world with an impressive time of 50.69s. Okolo will only compete in the 4x400m, but will be rooting for her team mates to bring the GOLD back to USA. Okon-George will also have to watch out for Jamaica’s Chrisann Gordon, and Commonwealth champion, Stephenie Ann-Mcpherson.
Ogho-Oghene Egwero will be hoping for a better performance than his debut outing in Doha six years ago where finished 5th in the semis. He is Nigeria’s sole competitor in the event, and has a Personal Best (PB) of 6.60m set in 2011. He will be joined by fellow Africans, Hua Wilfried Koffi and Sean Safo-Antwi who will be competing for Ghana for the first time ever.
The Nigerian will need a lot of luck on his side as he goes against big names like Jamaica’s Asafa Powell; USA’s Marvin Bracy who won Silver in Sopot; Michael Rodgers; youngster and World Championships Bronze medallist Trayvon Bromell; not forgetting the highly experienced Kim Collins.
African Games 100m Hurdles Bronze medallist, Lindsay Lindley will be in action in the 60m Hurdles (8.16s), the event where Gloria Alozie won a Silver medal in Maebashi in 1999. Lindley will have a lot on her plate as she goes against defending champion Nia Ali (7.85s); World Leader Brianna Rollins (7.76s), and British champion, Tiffany Porter (7.89s).
Tosin Oke and Olu Olamigoke will be Nigeria’s representatives in the men’s Triple Jump event. The championship will be an eye opener for Olamigoke who made his international debut for Nigeria at last year’s African Games where he picked Silver behind Oke.
The pair will contend with World Leader, China’s Bin Dong (17.41m), World No.2 Chris Carter (17.06m) and Omar Craddock (No.7, 16.96m). Oke comes to the competition with a Season’s Best (SB) of 16.48m, his winning distance at the British Indoor Championships.
Nigeria’s High Jump queen Doreen Amata recently set a National Indoor Record of 1.93m but will need to better her mark to stand a chance of getting to the podium whilst competing against the likes of Sopot 2014 Bronze medallist Ruth Beitia (1.98m), and US Indoor Champion cum World Leader Vashti Cunningham (1.99m) who only turned 18 in January.
Erayokan, Samson Nathaniel, Noah Akwu, Isah Salihu and Abiola Onakoya will represent Nigeria in the men’s 4x400m relay, while Okon-George, Ada Benjamin, Josephine Ehigie, Regina George, Margaret Bamgbose and Tameka Jameson will do same in the women’s event.