Reigning African Games 100m king, Raymond Ekevwo, and reigning Nigerian fastest man, Favour Ashe, will have to find a way to surmount the odds heavily stacked against them as they bid to end Nigeria’s bid to return to the final of the 100m event at the World Athletics Championships, 15 years after Olusoji Fasuba did in Osaka, Japan.
Both Ekevwo and Ashe qualified for the semifinals of the blue ribband event on the first day of the 2022 World Athletics Championships but now face stiffer tests as they bid to become the seventh and eighth Nigerian man to run in the final of the event.
They will also be seeking to both make it to the final where they will become the second pair to run in the final after Deji Aliu and Uchenna Emedolu first did in 2003 in Paris.
The duo will however have to first overcome the real obstacles that may cut short their dream.
Ekevwo will be the first to have a go in the first semifinal heat and the Nigerian has been drawn in lane one and will battle for the two automatic tickets on offer with three Africans viz Akani Simbine of South Africa, Arthur Cisse of Ivory Coast and Emmanuel Matardi of Liberia.
The three Africans have ran faster than the Nigerian so far this year with the Liberian the only sub-10 seconds runner among the four Africans in the heat.
Ekevwo will also have Travyom Brommel of the USA, the second fastest man in the world so far this year at 9.81 seconds as well 2011 World champion, Jamaica’s Yohan Blake who has done 9.85 seconds this year and Japan’s Abdul Hakim Sani Brown, one of four athletes who have broken 10 seconds this year in the line up.
The Nigerian may need to run the 9.96 seconds that won him the African Games title three years ago in Rabat, Morocco to guarantee his place in the final.
The journey to the final is equally as tough for Ashe, the only Nigerian to break 10 seconds so far this year.
Ashe is one of seven sprinters in his heat who have run a sub-10 seconds in the event and the Unibversity of Tennessee freshman has been drawn in lane two of the third and final semifinal heat.
The 20 year old who ran 9.99 seconds to win his first 100m title at the Nigerian championships last month in Benin City will have to outrun at least six of the eight sprinters that will file out for the race.
One of the athletes the Nigerian will have to run faster than includes reigning Olympic champion, Lamont Marcel Jacobs of Italy, African record holder in the event, Ferdinand Omanyala of Kenya as well as another African, Leslie Tebogo of Botswana who ran a new World U20 record (9.94) in the first round to qualify for the semis.
Only six Nigerians have ran in the final of the 100m at the World Athletics championships with Daniel Effiong the first in 1993 in Stuttgart, Germany. He ran the fastest time by a Nigerian in the event (9.98) before placing seventh in the final with his 10.04 seconds run.
Olapade Adeniken followed in Effiong’s footsteps in 1995 and Davidson Ezinwa made it a hat-trick of appearances for Nigeria in 1997 in Athens, Greece.
Aliu and Emedolu made it to the final in 2003 while Fasuba ran 10.04 seconds to place fourth four years later in Osaka, Japan to achieve Nigeria’s best position in the event.
In the men’s Shot Put, Chukwuebuka Enekwechi knows it will require a huge personal best and a first throw over 22m for him to stand a realistic chance of making the podium.
The 29 year old made the final in his first attempt three years ago in Doha and has done it again this time in Oregon. He will however be seeking to go past his eighth place finish the last time out and throw himself onto the podium.
By Dare Esan
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