Jerry Jakpa earned the first of what will most likely be a sequence of 200m victories in the coming months as he flowed to a 200m time of 20.97s to set a new Meet Record (MR) on the red track of the Yaba College of Technology Sports Complex to claim his first MoC Grand Prix title on Day 2 of the BetKing/3rd MoC Grand Prix.
The 22-year-old Nigerian sprinter had already come close to winning at the Grand Prix in 2018 where he finished 2nd, while in 2019, he focused solely on the 100m.
However, 2021 was his year as he stormed to victory in his specialist event which ended in a photo-finish as Alaba Akintola also matched his time, setting a new lifetime best in the process. Kenya’s Ferdinand Omanyala who was timed at 21.04s, settled for 3rd.
Going by his past antecedents, Jakpa is looking very likely to improve massively on his times later this year, especially as he has changed his running program and switched to racing in the 400m as well.
“I’m coming off a loaded week in training so that gives me a lot of confidence,” said Jakpa, whose winning time came after he had run his first competitive 400m race on Day 1 of the competition. “It felt fast”. I blinked and all of a sudden the race was over.
Jakpa’s decision to concentrate on the shorter sprint rather than doubling in the 200m/400m finals – having run a new Personal Best (PB) of 47.30s in the heats – paid off.
“It’s been a very difficult transition, but I must say, the 400m really helped open my body up and pushed my endurance level,” said Jakpa.
Immediately after his race, Jakpa walked briskly to his Coach, Olympic Bronze medallist Deji Aliu, whose countenance indicated how much his athlete had come through the final unscathed. And for a boy whom he had taken under his wings since his teenage years, there is a feeling that there’s still more in Jakpa that the world needs to see.
His teammate, Gafar Audu clocked a new PB of 21.16s to place 4th. It’s a massive improvement for the athlete, who only in the early part of March ran 21.85 at the 2nd AFN All-Comers meet in Akure.
Another athlete that got on the PB train in the 200m is Gracious Ushie. The sprinter chalked off 0.10 of his previous best to win his 200m heat in 21.40s. He later went on to finish 5th in the final.
Missing out on a podium finish was his teammate, Favour Ashe, who went into the 200m brimming with confidence after his 100m exploits where he clocked a new PB of 10.17s. Despite a bit of burnout from Day 1, Ashe came through in 6th, running 21.76s.
After a long injury layoff that meant him missing out on the better part of 2020, Favour Ekpekpe is gradually regaining his form in the half-lap event. Although he couldn’t medal at the Grand Prix, the sprinter timed a Season’s Best (SB) of 21.72 in his heat before going on to place 7th in the final.