Nigeria’s prowess in Athletics in the year 2023 was not streamlined to just the sprints as could be the tradition, but a myriad of events, especially on the field with both seasoned veterans and new talents emerging.

For our yearly review, here’s the second part of a two-part feature on the best Nigerian female athletes in 2023.

  1. ASHLEY ANUMBA (Discus Throw)
The National Sports Festival Champion Ashley Anumba emerged Nigerian Champion in the women’s Discus in Benin.

Season highlights:

National Discus Throw Champion

NCAA Outdoor Championships Silver

Before 2023, no Nigerian female athlete had ever won a medal in the women’s Discus Throw at the NCAA Championships. Infact, no Nigerian woman had actually ever made the final. However, this narrative underwent a profound shift with the emergence of Ashley Anumba, a seasoned Senior from the University of Virginia.

Anumba’s prowess on the Nigerian athletic stage was quite well-established, having represented her nation in the 2019 African Games. Her meteoric rise continued as she clinched the National Sports Festival title in 2022 during her inaugural year at the University of Virginia, where she proceeded to repeatedly shatter the School Record in the Discus Throw, accomplishing this feat no less than three times. Even during her time at the University of Pennsylvania, Anumba left her mark by surpassing the record on two occasions.

Entering 2023, Anumba embarked on a relentless campaign to rewrite the record books once more. Commencing with a School Record of 16.16 meters in the Shot Put, she proceeded to dominate her signature event, the Discus Throw, surpassing her own School Record thrice and achieving a monumental milestone by breaching the 60-meter mark for the first time with a remarkable throw of 60.97m at the Tucson Elite Classic in May.

This form culminated in her remarkable performance of 61.13m in the women’s Discus Throw final at the NCAA Championships, securing the second-best performance of the night, trailing only Jorinde van Klinken of Oregon, who set a new NCAA Record. Anumba’s achievement etched her name in history as the first Nigerian female thrower to clinch a top-three finish at the NCAA Championships since inception in 1983.

One might have anticipated Anumba’s triumphs to conclude there, yet she continued to defy expectations, setting two Personal Bests (PB) before the season’s end. She made her debut on the pro circuit, followed by another exceptional performance at the Nigerian Athletics Championships, where she unleashed a massive throw of 61.98m. This remarkable feat not only bested a field of highly experienced throwers but also surpassed African Record holder Chioma Onyekwere. Anumba’s stellar performance secured her qualification for the World Championships in Budapest, cementing her status as one of Nigeria’s premier athletic talents.

  1. CHIOMA ONYEKWERE (Discus Throw)

Season highlights:

African Record

Chioma Onyekwere by every standard already had the title of Nigeria’s best Discus Thrower, but she reached an amazing level of consistency in 2023, starting off the year in electric form as she smashed the African Record with an astonishing 64.96m in Oklahoma!

She broke what is now the previous record set in 2007 by Elizna Naudé by 9cm and bettered the World Championship qualification standard. Her previous PB also stood at 63.30m, meaning that she bettered that by over one and a half metres.

Relentlessly, she pumped out 60-metre throws at most of her competitions, finished 2nd at the National Championships and competed at the World Championships in Budapest.

  1. RUTH USORO (Long Jump, Triple Jump)

Season highlights:

Nigerian Long Jump Champion

After an amazing career as a collegian with Texas Tech, Ruth Usoro made what could be described as a successful switch onto the professional leagues in 2023. With four years of competing indoors in her legs, she made just one appearance for the year at the Texas Tech Invite where she landed a big PB of 6.87m for a pro debut!

Her next outings would be at the Miramar Invitational and USATF Bermuda Grand Prix where she beat a seasoned group of long jumpers to win, recording 6.82m on both occasions and the proceeded to win her second national title, a first in the Long Jump.

Best known in the NCAA for her prowess in the Triple Jump, she managed an SB of 14.12m, but seemingly found more success in the Long Jump where she even competed at the World Championships in Budapest, just narrowly missing out on making the final. Usoro brought the year to an end with a win in the Long Jump at the Meeting Citta’ di Padova, a leg of the World Athletics Continental Tour event.


Season highlights:

African 200m Indoor Record

NCAA Indoor 200m Silver

NCAA Outdoor 4x100m Bronze

SEC 200m Gold

NCAA 60m and 200m finalist

No one can deny that Favour Ofili had the season of her dreams in 2023, because every time she had an appearance, she made away with some records, especially indoors.

A standout athlete for LSU, she broke her own school record in the 200m twice indoors, both occasions being African Records as well. The latter was infact at the NCAA Indoor Championship final where she flew to a stunning 22.11s, a performance that makes her the fifth fastest woman of all-time. Up until then, only one woman in collegiate history had ever run that fast – Abby Steiner – and Ofili was infact that last person to beat her over that distance in the duration of her stay in the NCAA.

In the final of the 200m, Ofili narrowly missed out on GOLD to Julien Alfred but posted another brilliant 22.20s. She made the final of the 60m as well with a time of 7.14s.

She was kept under wraps for the outdoor season, but her return stalled into April/May because she picked up an injury and so she made a slow and gradual return to track, gathering pace one step at a time and even made it all the way to the NCAA Outdoor Championships where she was a semifinalist in the 200m and helped her school to Bronze in the 4x100m.

With that, Ofili passed on her final year of NCAA eligibility, turned pro and signed with Adidas! She is an LSU legend, with two NCAA Championship Silver medals, six SEC titles and two school records. She competed for Nigeria in the women’s 200m at the World Athletics Championships where she was a semifinalist.

  1. ESE BRUME (Long Jump)

Season highlights:

World Championship Long Jump finalist

Diamond League final 2nd place finisher

Ese Brume is that athlete you can describe as having struck quite a balance between competing internationally where she is based in the US and on the home scene, demonstrated by how she won a Bronze in the women’s 100m final at the National Championships.

Although she didn’t have a Long Jump competition in Nigeria for the first time in 4 years, she still stayed close, kicking off the year on a winning note at the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold in Botswana with a jump of 6.77m. She built gradually into the season, reaching an improved distance of 6.81m in Poland and even a slightly windy 6.88m in France.

Like a few others, Brume also struggled with injury but she kept on winning and with her status as one of the best long jumpers in the world, she easily made the final of the event at the World Championships in Budapest. Although she jumped her best mark of the year, she was denied a medal for the first time since 2019 by four centimetres!

With a point to prove at the Diamond League final in Eugene, Brume showed up and mounted immense pressure on the field, including World Champion Ivana Vuleta. She eventually had to settle for 2nd after some discomfort in one of her jumps, but not without an SB of 6.85m.

  1. TOBI AMUSAN (100mH)

Season highlights:

Diamond League Champion

World Championships finalist

Tobi Amusan is the face of Nigerian Athletics and the women’s 100m hurdles globally, arguably so, going by how amazing 2022 was for the World Record holder. Just as she did the year before, she started off the year, competing in the 100m flat where she clocked an impressive PB of 11.10s in Florida.

With improved flat speed, she was well set up for the rest of the season, winning her first hurdle race of the season. In her next couple of meets, she struggled a bit and made it known that she was just getting over an injury scare but by June when the season was entering its peak, she already shook it off, claiming her first victory of the year at the Racers Grand Prix in Jamaica.

She won her fourth National title easily in Benin a month later. The women’s 100mH operating at an all-time high and it was always a shuffle as to who would win on every different occasion, but Amusan managed to stay above the pile, evident in her next two outings which she won and posted a Season’s Best (SB) time of 12.34s.

Just a day after her win at the Gyulai Istvan Memorial in Hungary, it was announced that Amusan had allegedly missed three anti-doping tests within a 12-month calendar, a charge of which she was cleared just five days before the World Championships. After a month-long battle for her innocence, it was always going to be an uphill task to defend the world title she won in Eugene, but like a champion, Amusan showed up on race day, won her heat and semi-final races and then placed 6th in the final.

If her season had ended there and then, it would have by no means been a small feat, but she wasn’t done. She was going to attempt winning the Diamond League crown for the third consecutive time and she did in Eugene, beating the exact same World Championship field a month after and completing a hat-trick of Diamond League trophies in an SB of 12.33s!

Athletics is a special shade of life for me, and my confidence has received a boost since I started out covering the sport from the stands of my home, and now as a Junior Sportswriter with Making of Champions - an opportunity to get better at what I do.


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