As the African Games and World Championships draws closer, major Nigerian athletes continue to brilliantly deliver impressive performances proving their readiness for the Continental and World sporting showpiece.
The highlight performance of the weekend was by Chukwuebuka Enekwechi, who erased his own National Record (NR) of 21.77m set earlier in the year, with a new 21.80m to win at the CAS International Meeting in Luxembourg.
This is coming less than two weeks after hitting an Olympic qualifying mark of 21.26m in Centniewo, Poland and following it up with another 21.19m last week, at the Cork City Sports Festival in Ireland.
With his series of consistent 21m throws, it’s obvious the African Champion is in right shape for 22m and can pull this off in a major upset at the grandest occasion in Doha.
Meanwhile at the Diamond League in Birmingham, two of the country’s best sprinters were pitched against some of the world’s best in their various events, in what can be termed a World Championships final line up.
Commonwealth Champion, Tobi Amusan produced a better performance of the duo as she stunned a stacked field that included Olympic Champion in Bianna McNeal and Silver medallist in Nia Ali, to get the top three finish.
Amusan first clocked 12.71s to finish 2nd in her Heat, behind world leader and eventual winner Danielle Williams, who crossed the line in 12.53s, with McNeal placing 3rd in 12.72s.
Moments later, they were back in the final as Williams convincingly blew past the field to win and equal the Meeting Record (MR) of 12.46s, ahead of World Record (WR) holder Keni Harrison in 12.66s, while Amusan unfortunately hitting the last hurdle which affected her momentum placed 3rd in 12.71s.
Her brilliant show getting so close to Harrison and defeating other top athletes in the field, shows she’s in a great state both mentally and physically to defend her African Games title and stun the world in Doha.
This she backed up when speaking to Athletics Africa after the race: “I’m trusting the process, I’m taking every competition at a time, I’m really happy with where I am now so I’m going to keep working hard and in Doha, everything will come together by his Grace.”
Moving to the 200m, Blessing Okagbare had to overcome a poor start but unfortunately paid for it dearly running alongside world class speedsters.
Shaunae Miller was pre-race favourite for the win and didn’t disappoint clocking 22.24s, ahead of home favourite Dina Asher-Smith in 22.36s, and fast starting Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce with 22.50s.
Okagbare painfully finished 5th in 22.83s, edged to that position by Dafne Schippers, who clocked 22.81s.
Athletics Africa also had a chat with Okagbare, who gave a lowdown on how she felt: “I expected more, I expected to come here to win but I’m yet to figure out what really happened so I’m going to go back to my coach and talk to him. I expected the race to be extremely much better today, warm ups went well, everything was okay and my coach was like execute. So I’m pretty sure I did what he wanted me to do so we’re just going to talk about it and see what happens.”
All focus will now shift to the African Games in Rabat, Morocco next week where all athletes both home and abroad are expected to dish out more outstanding performances for podium placements.