Two years ago, if you had told Mercy Umoibang that she would be competing in the A Final of the MoC Grand Prix and rubbing shoulders with some of the best quartermilers in the country, she may have laughed in disbelief, but this has become her reality as the teenage talent is now reaping the rewards of her resilience and dedication to her craft.
2021 has been a superb season for the Making of Champions (MoC) athlete who is currently being sponsored by Niger Delta Exploration and Production Plc (NDEP) and enjoying a new lease of life as far as her Athletics career is concerned.
Having consistently set new Personal Bests (PB) across the 200m and 400m since the start of the season, Mercy came so close to breaking the 54s barrier while racing at the BetKing/3rd MoC Grand Prix held at the Yaba College of Technology Sports Complex, storming to a 3rd place finish in a star-studded final that had 2018 National Sports Festival (NSF) Champion Imaobong Nse Uko, the more experienced Glory Patrick and MoC teammate Blessing Oladoye in tow.
Umoibang made the most of the fierce competition, racing to a new lifetime best of 54.00s to finish behind Uko (52.54s) and Patrick (53.82s) and ahead of Oladoye (54.23s), making it her third PB over the 400m in just two weeks!
Umoibang’s new feat is a big deal indeed, considering that she couldn’t even compete in the event at the 2nd MoC due to health challenges which left her sidelined from track, while she finished 3rd in the B Final at the 1st MoC Grand Prix in 2018 where she clocked a time of 57.48s. But that was the old Umoibang!
The new improved Umoibang opened her campaign at the BetKing/3rd MoC Grand Prix on a winning note, taking the win in 54.68s to finish ahead of Josephine Oloye, consolidating on her impressive outing at the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) Evaluation Meet held in Akure two weeks prior, where she smashed her PB, breaking 55s for the first time in her career to win the women’s B Final with an impressive time of 54.66s to qualify for the World U20 Championships billed to hold in Nairobi in August 2021! Just the previous day, she had clocked a new PB of 55.83s while racing in the heats.
Umoibang’s progression this season inspires confidence that she can even go even faster as the year progresses, while the countdown to the World U20 Championships begin. Having already made the Lagos State team for the National Sports Festival (NSF) which kicks off in a few days, one can only imagine what she’s got up her sleeves even as she makes her maiden appearance at the event.
In all this, the icing on the cake for Mercy is the fact that her younger sister, 16-year-old Maria, has also qualified for the World U20 Championships after setting three PBs in the 100m on Day 1 of the BetKing/3rd MoC Grand Prix, first breaking the 12s barrier for the first time in her career in the preliminaries (11.99s), then improving her mark to 11.84s in the heats, which qualified her for the World U20 Champs. However, that was not enough for the younger Umoibang who then shaved 0.03s off her previous mark in the B Final to end the competition on a high note.
The Umoibangs have certainly come a long way from their humble beginnings and will leave no stone unturned in their quest to take on the world. Bring it on!