If there is one major thing Team Nigeria succeeded in reinforcing to its Athletics fans on Sunday at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, it is that they could be a powerhouse nation in the 4x100m relays, an event Nigeria has won numerous global medals in.
Competing in a soldout Alexander stadium in Birmingham, the two Nigerian relay teams won two medals in this event, clinching GOLD and Bronze medals respectively in the women and men’s 4x100m finals.
The Nigerian women’s team had the luxury of drafting Tobi Amusan into their team, less than 2hrs after she had broken the Commonwealth Games 100m Hurdles record. It was indeed a strong quartet comprising Amusan in the lead leg, Favour Ofili on the back straight, then Rosemary Chukwuma on the 3rd leg and Grace Nwokocha anchoring the team.
Nigeria did not only beat a strong field that had England finishing 2nd, and Jamaica 3rd, they also blazed to a new African Record of 42.10s, the fastest any Nigerian female team has ever run.
Amusan started well for the team, handed over to Ofili to bring the baton to Chukwuma, who was by far the outstanding athlete in that race, eating up the bend in the home straight and giving Nwokocha a comfortable lead to bring home the baton for GOLD.
In the men’s 4x100m, although there were doubts about his availability for the relay team after feeling competing in the men’s 200m final, Udodi Onwuzuruike was drafted to take the lead leg for Nigeria, replacing Seye Ogunwele who anchored in the heat.
Raymond Ekevwo moved from the lead leg to the finish, brining home the quartet comprising of Onwuzurike, Favour Ashe and Akintola Alaba in a time of 38.85s. It crowned a good day for Nigerian sprinting, underlining what the country is capable of producing in this event.
1990 in Auckland, New Zealand was last time Team Nigeria had two relay teams winning medals and finishing on the podium in the 4x100m at the Commonwealth Games. Thirty-years after, they have replicated that with an even better placements.
The quartet of: Victor Nwankwo, Davidson Ezinwa, Osmond Ezinwa & Abdullahi Tetengi won the Silver medal in men’s 4x100m then, clocking a time of 38.85s to finish 2nd behind England who won the GOLD in a time of 38.67s.
While in the women’s category: Beatrice Utondu, Fatima Yusuf, Charity Opara, Chioma Ajunwa ran a time of 44.67s to win the Bronze behind Australia and England.
It has taken Nigeria 28 years to find a winning quartet at the Commonwealth Games, following the footsteps of: Faith Idehen, Mary Tombiri, Christy Opara-Thompson and Mary Onyali who were crowned champion at the 1994 Games in Victoria, Canada
It goes to show that with better planning to harness the potentials at Nigeria’s disposal, the 4x100m is one event that could constantly rake in medals. Three female Nigerian athletes ran sub 11s this season, three more did 11.1s. The talent is not in doubt, it is making it work that Nigeria needs to start figuring out if they will indeed become a true powerhouse like the Jamaican’s and USA.