Following our Part I story on the seven Nigerian athletes that have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, which featured athletes who will be making a second trip or more to the Games, we now take a look at Part II of the athletes who have qualified and will be making a debut at the Olympics.
5. Chukwuebuka Enekwechi
After capping off his collegiate career for University of Purdue with glitz, earning a 2nd place finish in the men’s Shot Put at the 2016 NCAA Championships, Chukwuebuka Enekwechi won his first national title in Sapele the same year and since then, has gone on to win a plethora of titles, establishing him as the best Shot Putter in Nigeria and arguably, in Africa.
Having qualified for the London 2017 World Championships, he surpassed 21m for the first time at the Cork City Sports Meet in Ireland, going out to 21.07m. He made his debut at the Worlds but didn’t make it into the final.
The following season came with so much flourish as he kicked off his outdoor campaign with a Personal Best (PB) of 21.14m to claim Silver at the Commonwealth Games behind Tom Walsh. He subsequently improved his best to 21.22m through the course of the season, represented Africa at the Ostrava Continental Cup and won his second national title at the 2018 National Sports Festival in Abuja.
He kept his movement up the slope in 2019 as he broke ground to a huge PB of 21.77m, stunning favourites to win the event at the IAAF World Challenge in Braganca Paulista, a mark that bettered the previous Nigerian Record set by Stephen Mozia in 2016 by one centimetre.
He would later extend his National Record (NR) to 21.80m at the CAS Meeting in Schifflange, 17cm shy of the African Record set by Janus Robert in 2001.
Enekwechi dominated the men’s Shot Put at the African Games in Rabat with 21.48m and in his second consecutive World Championship appearance, made the final, going on to finish 8th in what is regarded as the greatest Shot Put final in the history of the sport, albeit Athletics.
Given his performance in Doha, he was the only Nigerian male athlete to make the final of any event at the World Championships.
With the stakes as high as ever in the men’s Shot Put globally, Enekwechi would be hoping to get past the 22m mark in 2021 and with that kind of performance get in the mix for a medal, come the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
6. Raymond Ekevwo
Raymond Ekevwo’s rise to the top of African sprinting has been a steady and consistent one, ever since he first made a mark at the 2016 D. K. Olukoya Youth & Junior Championships, where in a dramatic turn of events, he stunned the field to win the men’s 100m in a then Personal Best (PB) of 10.35s.
On to 2018, he travelled to the US on scholarship and as a Freshman, competed for Oral Roberts University where he established times of 10.24 (+2.2) and a wind-legal 20.92s over 200m.
In 2019, he switched over to competing for the Florida Gators where he quickly became one of the school’s Top 2 fastest men for the season as he posted an astonishing 10.02s for 2nd place at the SEC Outdoor Championships, securing him the Olympic qualification.
He narrowly missed out on a spot in the 100m, but led off the Gators’ men’s 4x100m team that struck GOLD at the NCAA Championships in Austin (Texas) as they smashed the NCAA Record in 37.97s, becoming the first collegiate team to ever dip under 38s in the event.
He made a full rebound when selected to run the 100m at the 2019 African Games in Rabat where after winning his heat and semifinal races, Ekevwo recovered from a fair start in the final, running down a loaded field to claim GOLD in a new lifetime best of 9.96s, a feat last achieved by a Nigerian man in 2007.
He was a semifinalist at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha and despite his 2020 season being cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he managed to run a PB of 6.53s over 60m and secure the SEC Indoor 60m title in February.
Ekevwo is a very bright prospect in the men’s 100m and having rubbed shoulders with the best in the world in Doha, he’ll be looking to make the 100m final at the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games.
7. Usheoritse Itsekiri
Being one of the fastest Nigerian men in over a decade and one of the three to have secured qualification in the 100m ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games, Usheoritse Itsekiri is currently in a good place in the sport.
He won his first Senior National title at the 2018 National Sports Festival in the 100m where he clocked a PB of 10.27s. In 2019, he gained even more ground and exposure as he moved on to competing in Europe where he lowered his lifetime best through a series of meets to 10.07s, first qualifying him for the Doha 2019 World Athletics Championships.
He defeated former World Record holder, Asafa Powell in Belgium over 100m with a time of 10.19s and improved his 200m PB with a 20.53s clocking, enough to bolster his confidence ahead of the National Athletics Championships in Kaduna.
Arriving as the favourite for the title, he rose to the occasion as he stormed to his second National 100m title in 10.23s and then, doubled up two days after with the 200m where he ran 20.92s in a closely fought final.
He was selected to represent the country in the men’s 100m at the African Games in Rabat, easily winning his heat and semifinal races at the competition. Itsekiri ultimately peaked in the final of the event where he stormed to a new PB of 10.02s for the Bronze medal, his first international medal.
The icing on the cake was that it secured him qualification to the Tokyo Olympics where he will compete against the very best in the world and hopefully, make the final of the 100m.