Hammer thrower Oyesade Olatoye and the 4x400m mixed relay team will open Team Nigeria’s bid for podium appearances when the 18th World Athletics Championships begin Friday at the Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, USA.
Olatoye, drawn in group A of the qualifiers for the final will be making history as the first Nigerian, man or woman to compete in the Hammer throw event in the championships.
Last month in Mauritius, the 25 year old won the Hammer throw title at the African Athletics Championships to become the first Nigerian woman to emerge African champion in the history of the championships.
Olatoye will however need a miracle to progress further in the event as she is lined up against athletes who have been throwing over 70m consistently including Janee’ Kassanavoid of the USA who is third on the world list so far this year with her 78.00m throw in May and Canada’s Camryn Rogers who is not far behind with the 77.67m personal best she incidentally threw at the Hayward Field last month. She is fourth in the top list for 2022.
The Nigerian’s 65.74m personal season’s best will definitely not get her over the line and will need to throw a huge personal best of at least 73.50m which is the automatic qualification mark or be among the 12 best throwers from the two qualifying groups.
For the 4x400m team of Patience Okon-George, Imaobong Nse Uko, Sikiru Adeyemi, Dubem Amene and Nathaniel Samson, the World Championships presents another big stage to make history as the first mixed relay team to make the final of a global event after debutting at the Tokyo Olympics last year, exiting in the first round.
The team has been drawn in heat 1 of two first round heats and will run from lane three, sandwiched between Poland, the reigning Olympic champion in lane two and USA, bronze medal winner in Tokyo in lane four.
Three teams will qualify automatically from the heat for the final while two others with fastest losing times will join. The final will be held later Friday evening. The Nigerian team set a new 3:13.60 African in Tokyo last year.
Later Friday evening, the heats for the men’s 100m will hold with Favour Ashe, the reigning fastest man in Nigeria scheduled to run. Also expected to be in the line up will be reigning World U20 Champion, Udodi Onwuzurike.
The duo will be aiming to return Nigeria to the final of the blue ribband event 15 years after Olusoji Fasuba ran in the final in Osaka, Japan.
Also Friday evening, the duo of Chukwuebuka Enekwechi and Dotun Ogundeji will begin their quest for places in the final of the Shot Put event.
Enekwechi, the reigning Nigeria and African shot put king has been drawn in group A while Ogundeji will compete in group B and both will be seeking to hit the 21.20m automatic qualifying mark or be among the 12 best to qualify for the final.
Enekwechi only needs to repeat the mark that gave him his second straight African title in Mauritius last month to make his second straight final while Ogundeji, who is making his first appearance at the championships will need to throw way beyong the 21.05m personal best he set in 2019 to be quaranteed of a final appearance.
Nigeria will also be hoping to win more than the one medal Ese Brume won three years ago in Doha, Qatar. The last time the country won two medals was in 2013 in Moscow, Russia where Blessing Okagbare leapt to a silver medal in the long jump and a bronze medal in the 200m.
The country will also be seeking a first ever gold medal in the championships and will be relying on Brume, the only Nigerian still competing who has won medals at the World indoor and outdoor championships and at the Olympics as well as sprint hurdler, Tobiloba Amusan who has a 50-50 chance of not just making the podium this time around after two fourth placed finishes in Doha in 2019 and at the Olympics last year but also win the gold.
The petite 25 year old set a new 12.41 seconds personal best and African record just last month and the Nigerian knows she needs to win a world title to be able to stake a claim to being one of the greatest sprinters in the world.