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Little hope for Nigeria, as World Athletics Championships begin

Posted by The Vanguard on 2005/08/06 | Views: 773 |

Little hope for Nigeria, as World Athletics Championships begin


Nigerian athletics buffs do not expect their team to return from the 10th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, beginning in Helsinki, Finland today, with a clutch of gold medals, after inadequate preparation and the inexplicable decision of the new board of Athletics Federation of Nigeria to leave out the menís 4x400m relay team.

Nigerian athletics buffs do not expect their team to return from the 10th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, beginning in Helsinki, Finland today, with a clutch of gold medals, after inadequate preparation and the inexplicable decision of the new board of Athletics Federation of Nigeria to leave out the menís 4x400m relay team.

Anchored by Enefiok Udo-Obong, this team had won medals at the last two Olympic Games (silver in Sydney 2000 and bronze in Athens last year), but federation chiefs threw the squad out of the planning for the Helsinki show after last monthís national championships in Abuja.

Not much is expected from the menís and womenís 4x100m and womenís 4x400m relay squads, even though the menís shorter distance squad won a bronze at the Olympics in Athens last year. Deji Aliu, who anchored that quartet, has not been in flaming form this year, and neither national championships winner, Uchenna Emedolu, nor youthful Olusoji Fasuba has broken the 10-seconds barrier this season.

Hot squads are expected from the United States of America, Britain, Jamaica, France, Cuba and the Bahamas, meaning the chances of the Nigerian team are remote.

The womenís 4x100m relay team has not exactly lifted hearts since Mary Onyali anchored the side that won bronze at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, and the womenís 4x400m team last shone on the world stage at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where Falilat Ogunkoya skippered it to a bronze.

Incidentally, the World Championships began as a quadrennial affair in Helsinki in 1983, where the greatest talent of them all, Carl Fitzgerald Lewis, was born. Lewis won three gold medals in the 100m, long jump and the 4x100m relay, and would then go on to add the 200m event to sweep four gold medals at the following yearís Olympics in his hometown of Los Angeles.

Lewis repeated the three-gold feat at the 1987 championships in Rome, Italy, where he lost the 100m final to Canadian, Ben Johnson, in a thunderbolt race that the Canadian won in 9.83seconds, with the American one-tenth of a second behind. But Lewis, the man who has won the most medals at the World Championships (eight gold, one silver and one bronze, 1983-1993), had the gold transferred to him after Johnsonís 1988 positive drug test.

This yearís championships could be a bit under-par, with a number of superstars having withdrawn. Britainís Olympics heroine, Kelly Holmes, pulled out as a result of injury, and was joined at the weekend by the worldís fastest man, Jamaican Asafa Powell.

Powell, favoured to win after scorching to a new world mark of 9.77seconds in Athens in June, pulled out as a result of a groin injury aggravated at the Norwich Grand Prix in Crystal Palace a fortnight ago, where he fell to the floor as rival and Olympic champion, Justin Gatlin cruised to victory.

Gatlin is the new favourite but fellow American, Shawn Crawford, Olympic bronze medallist, and world champion, Kim Collins and Olympic silver medallist, Francis Obikwelu are among those who could harbour other ideas.

The menís 200m is a straight fight between Americans, John Capel and Olympic champion, Shawn Crawford, while the womenís 100m hurdles event would be well disputed by 2000 Olympic champion, Olga Shishigina, Spainís Glory Alozie, and Jamaicaís Melissa Morrison.

Nigeriaís 4x100m menís team could be gifted an opportunity for a medal if Britain, Olympic champions, fail to raise a strong enough squad after injury to anchor, Mark Lewis-Francis. Jason Gardner and Marlon Devonish would be left with a huge job after Darren Campbell also failed to regain form.

Former Olympic team captain, Yussuf Ali, was not happy that the Nigerian contingent left without the 4x400m menís team. "I would think this team did very well last year at the Olympics, even when few people gave the boys any chance. Even if they are not in form per se at the moment, we should have taken them to the World Championships as part of a process of preparing them for next yearís Commonwealth Games and the Olympics in 2008."

Just as the nationís U-17 team returned empty-handed from the World Championships in the Scandinavian country two years ago, the athletics team could just do the same. That would mean three consecutive World Championships without a medal, after empty shows in Edmonton in Canada in 2001 and at the Paris 2003 championships.

The August 6-14 championships is the tenth edition, after Helsinki hosted in 1983, followed by Rome, Italy in 1987 and Tokyo, Japan in 1991.

The rules were changed in 1991 to make it a biennial event, and the Gottlieb-Daimler Stadium in Stuttgart, Germany, was the venue for the closest-ever finish in the history of the championships, when American Gail Devers beat Jamaican stallion, Merlene Ottey to the womenís 100m gold with one thousandth of a second (10.811s to 10.812s).

However, Merlene Ottey would become the oldest woman gold medallist at the championships when she won the 200m event in Goteborg, Sweden in 1995. Ottey also holds the greatest success in a single event for a woman, after winning six medals (two gold, a silver and three bronze) in the 200m in a 14-year spell between 1983 and 1997. Ottey, who retired after injury at the Athens Olympics after taking part in eight world championships and seven Olympics, also holds the record for the most medals won by an individual at the World Championships Ė 14 (three gold, four silver and seven bronze).



The greatest success in a single event for a man was recorded by Ukrainian, Sergey Bubka, who won six gold medals in pole vault in six appearances between 1983 and 1997.

As for gold medals, the greatest haul is by American Michael Johnson, who won nine between 1991-1999, when he was unbeaten in the 200m, 400m and 4x400m menís relay. American women Marion Jones and Gail Devers have won five gold medals each.

Apart from Lewis, Maurice Greene, also American, won three gold medals at the 1999 championships. His was in the 100m, 200m and menís relay. Three women Ė Marita Koch and Katrin Krabbe from Germany and American, Gwen Torrence have also won three gold medals at one championship.

The Moroccans and the Kenyans will give the world something to cheer in the long distance races as usual while Nigeria fumble again. Who do we blame?

"Weíll watch the world run again and discover once again how unserious we are as a nation", said veteran analyst, Ikeddy Isiguzo, who is chairman of Vanguard Newspapers editorial board.



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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.