As the countdown to the postponed Tokyo 2021 Olympics begins, we take a look at the seven Nigerian Athletes that have qualified for the most anticipated sporting event of the year, starting off with the four athletes on the list who have previously been at the Games.

  1. Blessing Okagbare

Having competed at the last three consecutive Olympic Games, Nigeria’s fastest woman Blessing Okagbare is well on her way to making a fourth appearance at the quadrennial showpiece in Tokyo 2021.

Her first Olympics at Beijing 2008 saw her take a Bronze medal in the women’s Long Jump, which was subsequently upgraded to Silver. She made the women’s 100m final at the London 2012 Olympic Games and competed in the women’s 100m and 4x100m at the next staging of the Games in Rio 2016, helping the women’s 4x100m relay team into the final of the event.

Brazil’s Maurren Maggi is flanked by Tatiana Lebedeva (L) and Blessing Okagbare (R) on the podium for the women’s Long Jump event at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Since then, Okagbare has broken Mary Onyali’s long standing 200m African Record (AR) with a 22.04s clocking in her 2018 season opener at the Abilene Wes Kittley Invitational in Texas.

Exactly a week after, she posted the fastest all-conditions 100m time by an African woman over 100m in 10.72s (+2.7) at another meet and then decided not to defend her Commonwealth 100m title, but won a Bronze medal as a member of the 4x100m team that ran 42.75s at the 2018 Games in Gold Coast, Australia.

In 2019, the Nigerian ran a blazing 22.05s, the 4th fastest time of the season to win the women’s 200m at the Prefontaine Classic, just outside her own AR and competed at the Doha 2019 World Championships.

Blessing Okagbare’s experience and versatility can always come in handy for Nigeria.

Should she keep fit and healthy, Okagbare’s versatility and experience could see her make the final in any of her sprint events and hopefully, win a medal in at least one of them.

 

  1. Divine Oduduru
Divine Oduduru shaking Usain Bolt after their 200m race at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Photo Credit: Jewel Samad, Getty Images

Running against Usain Bolt in his Olympic debut at Rio 2016, Divine Oduduru was inspired to a Personal Best (PB) of 20.34s in 2nd place behind the Jamaican and was infact, the only Nigerian to make it into a semifinal across any of the men’s sprints.

He has however since then, made huge strides competing in the NCAA for Texas Tech, breaking multiple School Records (SR) and National Records (NR) in his three years at the institution before turning pro.

In his sophomore year, he shattered the Nigerian Indoor 200m Record held by Francis Obikwelu with a 20.18s run, finishing 2nd at the NCAA Indoor Championships in 20.21s and then stunned a quality field running from Lane 8 to take the men’s 200m at the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Championships.

An excited Oduduru after running the 3rd fastest time ever over 200m, indoors.

At the Big 12 Indoor Championships in 2019 he turned in a blazing 20.08s to win the 200m, the 3rd fastest time in history and won his first NCAA Indoor title a week after.

Outdoors at the Michael Johnson Invitational, he sped to a massive 9.94s run over 100m, becoming the first Nigerian man to dip under 10s in 12 years and then topped it off with the 200m, shattering one more of Obikwelu’s NRs with a stunning 19.76s clocking.

Oduduru would break the 10s barrier four more times, peaking at the NCAA Outdoor Championships with a PB & SR of 9.86s, moving up to joint 2nd on the African all-time list alongside Frankie Fredericks and 2nd on the NCAA all-time list.

Oduduru is setting his sights on a strong performance for Nigeria at the Tokyo Olympics.

He secured the double by defending his 200m title, even going better with an NR and Championship Record (CR) of 19.73s – 2nd all-time in NCAA history behind Walter Dix.

He competed in a handful of meets in 2020 and now as one of the fastest men in the world, Oduduru will set his sights on a second Olympic appearance with strong chances of picking a medal.

 

  1. Tobi Amusan
Amusan finished 2019 with the 5th best time in the world in the women’s 100m Hurdles.

After setting a World Junior Record (unratified) of 12.83s in her freshman year in the NCAA and finishing 2nd in her first ever NCAA Championships that same season, Tobi Amusan first arrived on the Olympic scene in Rio, two years after switching from the flat sprints to the hurdles.

She made it all the way to the semifinals, just missing out on a spot in the final as she finished 3rd in a time of 12.91s.

In her sophomore year, Amusan was in blazing form, clutching a new set of PBs which set her up nicely as the favourite going into the NCAA Outdoor Championships, a status she fulfilled as she stormed to the NCAA title, equalling her lifetime best of 12.57s for the win.

Tobi Amusan emerged Commonwealth Games Champion in the 100m Hurdles in 2018. Photo Credit: BBC Sport

She soon turned pro and was a semifinalist at the 2017 World Championships in London. In 2018, Amusan made the final of the 60m Hurdles at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, competed at the Commonwealth Games and struck GOLD in the women’s 100m Hurdles, becoming the first Nigerian to win GOLD in the event. She also ran the 3rd leg on the women’s 4x100m team that won Bronze in Gold Coast.

Arguably one of the best hurdlers in the world, Amusan ran the fastest 100m Hurdles time of the heats at the 2019 World Championships – 12.48s – and replicated the time in the semifinals but narrowly missed out on a podium finish in the final despite still churning out a quick 12.49s.

Amusan narrowly missed making the podium at the 2019 World Championships in Doha.

There is no doubt as to Amusan making the final of the event at the Olympics and if she gets her start just right, could be in the mix for a medal.

 

  1. Ese Brume

 

Ese Brume ended Nigeria’s six-year medal drought at the World Championships.

In the build-up to her first Olympic Games appearance in Rio 2016, Ese Brume recorded a PB of 6.83m at the Akure Golden League Meet, won her second National Senior title and followed up with her first African title in Durban.

She then finished a respectable 5th in the women’s Long Jump in Rio with a mark of 6.81m, arguably as the best Nigerian Track and Field athlete at the Games.

However, the Cyprus-based athlete has made huge strides since travelling overseas to further her studies in 2017. She made her Diamond League debut in 2018 and defended her African title in front of a home crowd in Asaba, equalling her PB in the process and becoming the first African athlete (male or female) to defend three successive titles in the Long Jump at the African Championships.

Ese Brume joined the exclusive class of 7m jumpers in the course of the 2019 Athletics season.

Competing in a handful of meets in 2019, Brume very well in the form of her life, bounded out to a stunning Personal Best (PB) of 7.05m in the women’s Long Jump at the Turkish Championships, moving up to 2nd on the African all-time list, 7cm behind Chioma Ajunwa’s standing mark (7.12m) and thus, becoming one of three African women to jump 7m or more in the event.

She won the African Games title in Rabat and at the World Athletics Championships, landed a Bronze medal, albeit Nigeria’s only medal at the competition, thus ending a six-year medal drought for the nation.

Ese Brume enjoyed a spectacular 2019 season as she won two major medals.

With her place solidified as one of the best jumpers in the world, Brume will fancy her chances as a strong contender for the GOLD medal at her return to the Olympic Games.

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Oluwadare Popoola
Athletics is a special shade of life for me, and my confidence has received a boost since I started out covering the sport from the stands of my home, and now as a Junior Sportswriter with Making of Champions - an opportunity to get better at what I do.

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