Today we will conclude the countdown and present the remaining athletes who make up the Top 20. As usual, in descending order, find out those who are ranked from 5 to 1.
5. Divine Oduduru
What happens when “You Never ‘Experred’ to win the 200m NCAA Title”? Well, for Divine Oduduru, he danced uncontrollably upon realization that he had nicked the win for his college, Texas Tech, at the Championships. He couldn’t have asked for a better 2018.
After missing out on Nigeria’s team to the Commonwealth Games due to school commitments, it didn’t take too long for Oduduru to become a force to reckon with in his college.
At the Waco Michael Johnson Classic in April, Oduduru achieved a remarkable feat by running a PB of 10.10s to emerge winner in the 100m invitational event.
The time by Oduduru bettered the previous record at the event held by Tyree Gailes when he clocked 10.11 at the 2004 Outdoor National Championships. This mark makes him Nigeria’s fastest man in 2018!
He took his impeccable form to the Waco Big 12 Conference Championships which was held in Texas, where he won the 100m in 10.11s, and the 200m with a time 20.13s, which was a new Texas Tech record, and a lifetime best in the event.
Arguably, his biggest achievement came in June at the NCAA Championships. Despite qualifying as one of the fastest losers from the semis, and running from Lane 8, Oduduru braved the odds to win the men’s 200m final with a time of 20.28s at Hayward Field, Eugene.
By virtue of the win, Oduduru joined the elite list of Nigerian athletes to win NCAA titles, a feat achieved by the likes of Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor and most recently, Tobi Amusan, who won the women’s 100m Hurdles in 2017.
In what was his only outing for Nigeria this year, Oduduru scooped Silver in the men’s 200m at the African Championships in Asaba, losing out to his collegiate rival, Ncincihli Titi.
He was also a member of Nigeria’s 4x100m Silver-winning team in Asaba, partnering with Ogho-Oghene Egwero, Emmanuel Arowolo and Seye Ogunlewe.
4. Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor
Retaining her No. 4 spot from last year is Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor. Despite opting out of some events due to injury, it was a poignant 2018 season for the sprinter cum jumper as she carted home some medals in the relay events to add to her already choked up cabinet.
This year, she focused more on sprinting and it worked like magic as she opened her season with a bang when she erased Mary Onyali’s long-standing African Record of 22.07s to replace it with a 22.04s clocking when she competed at the Wes Kittley Invitational in Abilene, Texas. A week later, she ran a windy 10.72s in the 100m at the Texas Relays.
After opting out of the 100m and 200m at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Okagbare-Ighoteguonor inspired the women’s 4x100m team comprising Joy Udo-Gabriel, Tobi Amusan and Rosemary Chukwuma to a Bronze medal.
She opened her Diamond League season in Doha on the 4th of May, placing 2nd behind World Leader, Marie Jose Ta Lou in the 100m in a Season’s Best (SB) of 10.90s. She followed that performance with a modest 11.07s clocking at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene.
Despite the injury worries, she was still able to show up at the African Championships in Asaba, leading the relay team to a GOLD medal for Nigeria in the event.
Okagbare-Ighoteguonor ends the 2018 Athletics season as No.2 in the world in the women’s 200m, and No.3 in the 100m.
Watch Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor speak to Making of Champions about her aspirations in the coming years.
3. Ese Brume
It was a rather inconspicuous 2018 season for Ese Brume, who although competed sparingly, reaffirmed her absolute dominance in the women’s Long Jump in both Nigeria and Africa.
Brume, who is studying at the Eastern Mediterranean University, Cyprus, started her year with a bang when she obliterated the field of the women’s Long Jump at the Kingston Jamaica International Invitational, winning with a Meeting Record of 6.82m.
Less than a month later, the 2014 Commonwealth Games GOLD medallist made her DL debut at the Athletissima meet in Lausanne where she placed 4th with a 6.66m jump.
Going into the African Championships, Brume confirmed her pre-tournament favourite tag by going on to equal her Personal Best (PB) jump of 6.83m to win her third consecutive African Championships title. That feat made her the first African athlete to do so in the history of the competition.
She placed 4th at the IAAF World Challenge meet in Berlin, and the Continental Cup in Ostrava where she represented Africa.
Also, at the National Sport Festival (NSF), Brume set a new record of 6.62m to win GOLD for Delta State, retaining her Eko 2012 title, which brought her to the limelight. She then finished 4th in the women’s High Jump with a PB of 1.75m.
2. Chukwuebuka Enekwechi
Chukwuebuka Enekwechi was a model of consistency in the Shot Put in 2018. After making his international debut for Nigeria at the World Championships last year, the thrower represented the country at the World Indoors in Birmingham where he placed 14th.
At the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Enekwechi rose to the occasion in his maiden outing at the Games to clinch Silver behind reigning World Indoor and outdoor Champion, Tom Walsh of New Zealand, setting a new PB of 21.14m in the process.
Better things awaited Enekwechi as during the Dogwood Track Classic in Charlottesville, he set a new lifetime’s Best of 21.22m to win the men’s Shot put. He went on to claim victory at the Cork City Sports invitational in Brazil (20.62m) and the Gent Feesten meeting in Belgium in 20.89m.
At the African Championships, Enekwechi was a class apart from the rest of the field, clinching victory with his fifth round effort of 21.08m while also breaking Janus Roberts’ Championship Record (CR) of 20.04m, which the South African set 14 years ago in Brazzaville.
Enekwechi claimed 4th place at the Continental Cup in Ostrava, while also going on to win double GOLD for Delta State in both the men’s Shot put and Hammer events at the NSF in new Festival Records of 20.36m and 65.22m respectively.
1. Tobi Amusan
Retaining her No.1 spot from last year is Tobi Amusan. Rightly so, because she has mastered the art of turning on the style at major championships, producing sublime performances this season.
The hurdler was off to a flying start -quite literally- in 2018 as she churned out some fine displays during the indoor season, clocking a PB of 7.89s in her first 60m Hurdles race of the season at the Martin Luther King Invitational in Albuquerque.
She followed the victory with wins at the Texas Tech Classic & Millrose Games, before going on to compete at the World Indoor Championships where she placed 7th in the final with a 8.05s run. What came next for Amusan was special.
The 2015 African Games Champion ended her wait for a global title when at the Commonwealth Games in Australia, she upstaged 2015 World Champion Danielle Williams, to win the women’s 100m Hurdles with a Season’s Best of 12.68s.
It was a historic moment for Nigeria as Amusan’s feat made her the first ever Nigerian athlete to win a GOLD medal in the 100m Hurdles at the Commonwealth Games. She thereafter teamed up with the trio of Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor, Rosemary Chukwuma and Joy Udo-Gabriel to win the 4x100m Bronze at the Games, making her the only Nigerian athlete at the Games to win two medals.
After the Gold Coast Games, Amusan ran in a host of competitions, but more importantly, she made her DL debut at the Golden Gala in Rome where she finished 3rd with a 12.86s clocking.
Also, she competed at the Rabat and London legs of the DL where she ran impressive times, sealing her qualification for the final in Brussels. Despite running against the World Leader Brianna McNeal and World Record (WR) Holder, Kendra Harisson, Amusan held her nerves to place 4th in 12.69s.
Amusan went into the African Championships as the overwhelming favourite for the title and she delivered with aplomb. Running on home turf, she brushed aside her nearest competitor, Rikennete Steenkamp, to claim victory in 12.86.
She then stormed to her second GOLD medal of the African Championships after regrouping with the same Bronze-winning 4×100m quartet from Gold Coast in Asaba.
Although she was a late arrival at the Continental Cup in Ostrava, Amusan placed 5th in 12.96s. She capped off her season with victory for Delta State at the NSF, clocking a new record of 13.03s.
So, there you have it, our Top 20 Nigerian athletes of 2018. What do you make of our list? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box.