Another athlete who dumped Nigeria for a preferred foreign country, Salwa Eid Naser has turned into a heroine in Bahrain, for which she won a medal at the 2017 World Championships in London.
While Team Nigeria performed badly in the competition, it was a different story for Naser, who was known as Ebelechukwu Agbapuonwu while in Africa’s most populous nation.
She beat former world champion and now 14-time World Championships medallist Allyson Felix and Shaunae Miller-Uibo in Wednesday night’s 400m final to finish second behind American Phyllis Francis.
At 19, it made her the youngest ever woman to reach the podium over 400m at the IAAF World Championships. She had won gold at the 2015 World Youth Championships and the 2015 Military World Games for her adopted nation.
She had also put on brilliant performances earlier before the final, by erasing the Bahrain mark – 50.57s – also set by another Nigerian-born Bahraini athlete, Kemi Adekoya, at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
In the first round heats on Sunday, Naser did better in the semi-finals to book her ticket to the medal round in style, clocking yet another national record – 50.08s – in the process.
There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the talent drain that has hit Nigerian sports in recent years, as depicted at the IAAF World Championships London 2017, which ended on Sunday.
Sports buffs back home were made to endure another agonising championship, as the country’s contingent once again ended without a single medal or mention on the podium.
However, as one Team Nigeria athlete crashed out after the other, other Nigerians, who had dumped their country of birth, were doing their country proud winning medals for their adopted nations.
Blessing Okagbare couldn’t make the 100m final while the other female athletes struggled to reach the semi-finals of their events at the London Olympic Stadium. Further misery awaited the team as Onome Nathaniel was disqualified from the women’s 400m hurdles semifinal after finishing fifth while Margaret Bamgbose, Patience Okon-George and Yinka Ajayi all crashed out in the semifinals of the women’s 400m.
African champion Tosin Oke (triple jump), Chukwuebuka Enekwechi (shot put), Samson Nathaniel (400m) and Edose Ibadin (800m) failed to advance from the preliminaries of the men’s events.
Top on the list of athletes in London who dumped Nigeria was Bahrain’s 19-year-old Salwa Eid Naser, who capped a remarkable journey that started many years ago in Nigeria, continued in Bahrain, had memorable moments of glory in China, Colombia and finally the UK along the way.
The emerging athlete was born in Nigeria to Nigerian parents and raised here before switching allegiance to Bahrain in 2014. She was a former school sports champion in the 400m before her movement to Bahrain.
“I wasn’t surprised because I know what she’s capable of doing,” former triple jumper and 400m runner John George Obeya, Naser’s coach, who was also born in Nigeria but has been based in Bahrain for several years, said.