Team Nigeria athletes struggled to make an impact at the just concluded IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas after executing the championships with a depleted team.
It will be recalled that home-based athletes like Sade Abugan, Mercy Ntia-Obong, Omolara Omotosho, Praise Idamadudu and Peace Uko were initially listed on the team, before being dropped at the last minute. Also, Blessing Okagbare who was expected to lead the squad to Nassau was conspicuously absent at the two-day event.
As a result, the mismatched team was left to face some of the world’s best athletes without adequate preparation even though the country was listed to participate in only three events: the women’s 4x100m, 4x200m and 4x400m.
It was obvious that the athletes were stretched beyond limit as they each had to run several races during the competition whilst rubbing shoulders with world beaters at the Thomas Robinson Stadium in Nassau.
On Day 1, Patience Okon-George and Ugonna Ndu both raced in the heat and final of the women’s 4x200m, and then the heat of 4x400m, meaning they both ran in three races on Saturday. That notwithstanding, they won their heat in the 4x400m and placed 5th in the final of the 4x200m, an event Nigeria struck GOLD in two years ago.
On Day 2, Nigeria had to participate in the women’s 4x100m with a team comprising of hurdler Lindsay Lindley; quartermilers Okon-George and Ndu, and sprinter Jennifer Madu; they finished 6th in Heat 2 in a Season’s Best (SB) of 44.95s. The race was won by Germany in 43.04s.
A little over an hour later, Okon-George and Ndu had to join Jennifer Edobi and Margaret Bamgbose in the final of the 4x400m race. It is no wonder that they finished 7th in an event that was supposed to be Nigeria’s brightest prospect for a medal, having won a Bronze medal at the inaugural edition of the World Relays in 2014.
However, the bright side of their ordeal is the fact that the women’s 4x400m team has secured its spot at the forthcoming IAAF World Championships in London come August.
USA struck GOLD in the race after storming to a World Lead (WL) of 3:24.36, while Poland and Jamaica settled for Silver and Bronze respectively in Season’s Bests of 3:28.28 and 3:28.49.
The squad subsequently pulled out of the B final of the 4x100m which was won by Ecuador in 44.26s. Germany emerged the surprise winner in the final where they beat Jamaica to the title, racing to victory in an SB of 42.82s as the latter followed in 42.95s. China won Bronze in an SB of 43.11s.
However, Nigeria may have secured an automatic slot for the World Championships in London by participating in the event as other contenders in the B Final, Canada were disqualified, while the British Virgin Islands Did Not Finish (DNF). Ecuador thus secured an automatic slot to London after joining the six finishers in the A Final.
One can only hope that incidences like these become a thing of the past ahead of the National Sports Federations Elections holding next month.