Team Nigeria’s camp at the on-going Doha 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships may have been thrown into confusion, as indications emerged yesterday that Blessing Okagbare had withdrawn from the 100m event. She is Nigeria’s sole representative in the women’s 100m, which begins today.
Also yesterday, United States-based sprinter, Divine Oduduru, did not show up for the men’s 100m event, an action that may see Nigeria incur the wrath of the IAAF.
Okagbare is expected to begin the 100m race this afternoon in a contest against former World Champion, Tori Bowie of the United States at the iconic Khalifa Stadium in Doha, Qatar. They are in Heat 5.Last month, Okagbare abandoned the 100m race at the African Games in Morocco for a money spinning Diamond League in Europe. But the AFN still included her for the trip to Doha.
Okagbare is among the athletes of attraction for many track and field followers across the globe in this championship. She has been listed for three events in Doha; the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay.
Some athletics analysts were of the opinion yesterday that Okagbare and Oduduru’s’s withdrawal from 100m events may be as a result of lack of communication between the AFN Technical department and the athletes.“Before you enter an athlete for any event, the AFN technical director is expected to communicate with the athlete. I am sure the AFN entered both Okagbare and Oduduru for the 100m event without reaching out to them. They (Okagbare and Oduduru) feel they have better chances in the 200m and there should be no need burning out their energy in the 100m,” one athletics analyst, Dare Esan said yesterday.
The news of her withdrawal from the race notwithstanding, Okagbare’s name was still on IAAF’s programme of event for today’s 100m as at yesterday evening.Okagbare with a Personal Best of 10.79 is in lane 2, while the American champion, Bowie, who has a Personal Best of 10.78 will compete in lane 7. Other star athletes to battle for the two available tickets in Heat 5 includes Mujinga Kambundji (SUL), with a Personal Best of 10.99, Zeo Hobbs of New Zealand (11.37), and Hellen Makumba of Zimbabwe.
Two star athletes from Cote d’Ivoire, Murielle Ahoure and Marie-Josee Ta Lou will compete in Heat 1 and 2 respectively. Ahoure has a Personal Best of 10.78 while Ta Lou has a PB of 10.85.Two years ago in London, defending champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica did not compete in the 100m as she expected her first child. Okagbare crashed out in the semifinal in 11.08 seconds, while the likes of Ta Lou, Dafne Schippers, Elaine Thompson, Rosângela Santos and Bowie progressed to the final.
The Guardian recalls that in the final, Ta Lou established an early lead. Thompson had the slowest reaction to the gun and failed to get into contention. Bowie, who had been closing on the leader, leaned early for her dip at the line, beating the Ivorian sprinter, Ta Lou in the process and then stumbling to the track. While Bowie had a Season Best of 10.85 in that final, Ta Lou established a Season Best of 10.86.
The men’s 100m Heats began yesterday with Oduduru’s name missing. It was a misfortune for two other Nigerians, Raymond Ekevwo and Usheoritse Itsekiri who ran in the 100m. While Ekevwo qualified for the next round in 10.14 seconds, Itsekiri (10,46 seconds) crashed out. The semifinal and final of the men’s 100m will take place later today at 20.15 (local time in Doha).
Oduduru will now shift his focus to the 200m and 4x100m relay.