Udodi Onwuzurike stormed to men’s 200m GOLD at the ongoing World Athletics U20 Championships to become the first Nigerian to achieve that feat since Francis Obikwelu won the event in Sydney in 1996.
Onwuzurike, who was born in the United States to Nigerian immigrants, was in a class of his own throughout the race, as he beat championships favourite, Letsile Tebogo of Botswana and South Africa’s Sinesipho Dambile of South Africa to take the victory in a new Personal Best (PB) and National U20 Record of 20.21.
Drawn in lane 3, Onwuzurike had the benefit of seeing both Tebogo and Dambile on his outside, and he used that to his advantage, speeding past them as he entered the home straight.
At that point, he was in a comfortable lead, and with his eyes on the clock, he kept pumping those legs by the dozens to cross the finish line in an emphatic fashion.
Still amazed at what he had just achieved, the teenager who will be going to Stanford University to school this fall, let a roar out in the excitement of the spectacle he had given to the crowd cheering him from home.
“It’s a dream come true, he said:” I came to this Championships with one goal on my mind, and I have achieved the feat.”
Tebogo, the 100m GOLD medallist from earlier in the Championships, put up a good fight, but he looked spent as he held on to Silver in 20.38s, ahead of Dambile who clocked a Season’s Best of 20.45 to take Bronze.
Meanwhile in the men’s 110m Hurdles (99.0cm), French athlete Sasha Zohya underlined why his stock is rapidly on the rise, running two World Records en route clinching the world Junior title. Zhoya blazed past the field to post a staggering World U20 Record of 12.72s (+1.0) to emerge a clear winner.
The French athlete was way ahead the chasing pack and dragging the rest of the field along to post new PBs. Zhoya’s closest challenger, Jamaica’s Vashaun Vascianna ran a PB of 13.25s to get the Silver ahead of Poland’s Jakub Szymanski who was 3rd, also with a PB of 13.43s.
Zhoya came into the championships as the overwhelming favourite to win for the 110m Hurdles, and he lived up to the hype, running two World Records (12.94s in the semis), and was never in doubt of claiming the win in Kasarani.
Nigeria’s Prosper Ekporere was unlucky for the second time at this championship, clipping the barriers yet again in the men’s 110m Hurdles, and just about managing to finish the race. On Friday, Ekporere luckily got into the final, after Egypt’s Yousuf Sayed was adjudged to have impeded him in heat 3 of the semis, which caused the Nigerian to stumble.
Over to the men’s 400m, Anthony Pesela continued the Botswanan quarter-mile tradition and with their legendary Isaac Makwala on his route to retirement, there’s surely no shortage of worthy successors to his throne.
Pesela who was a reserved athlete for the Botswana 4x400m team who ran an African Record at the Tokyo Olympics, came back with a wealth of experience posting a Championship Record of 44.58s to win the 400m Junior title.
The Gaborone-born Pesela led going into the last bend, which he held on to bring home the crown, thereby becoming the first Botswana athlete to win this event. He joined Letslie Tebogo to become first set of Botswana athletes to win World titles in the sprints.
In that race, all the top seven finishers out of the eight finalists, all ran new PBs. Mexico’s Luis Ferreiro ran a new Mexico U20 Record of 44.95s to win Silver, while South Africa’s Antonie Nortje, pipped his fellow countryman Lythe Pillay for Bronze, clocking a new PB of 45.32s.
In the women’s 400m, Nigeria’s Nse Uko time her finish to perfection, kicking ahead of Poland’s Kornelia Lesiewicz to win her second GOLD medal of this championship, running a new PB of 51.55s. You can read the women’s 400m review here.