July 20, 2019

The clock is ticking on Alozie’s African record

Athletes during Asaba games

Athletes during Asaba games

By Yemi Olus

By the time you’re reading this piece, a new National and African Record holder in the women’s 100m Haurdles may have emerged in the person of Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan who would by this time, have taken on the rest of her counterparts from around the world while racing at the London Diamond League on Friday.

Athletes during Asaba games

Athletes during Asaba games

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Ironically, it was at this same meeting (not known as the Diamond League then) that Blessing Okagbare raced to a then African Record of 10.79sec in 2013, although Cote d’Ivoire’s Murielle Ahouré would go on to better the mark by just a hundredth of a second, clocking a new time of 10.78sec in 2016.

It was also at this same venue that USA’s Kendra Harrison clocked the World Record of 12.20sec in the 100m Hurdles, Amusan’s event, in 2016. It therefore goes without saying that the London Diamond League is a fantastic place to set records.

Anyway, back to Amusan, the hurdler has lingered in the shadow of one of Nigeria’s finest Athletics exports, Glory Alozie, for some time now even though she is currently the best on the continent in this generation. On the all-time continental list however, Alozie remains No.1 as she holds the Nigerian and African Record of 12.44sec set in 1998. In fact, Alozie clocked that time thrice in the course of her career: twice in 1998 and once in 1999.

Alozie stands in a class of her own in the annals of Track and Field in Nigeria as she remains the country’s only World Championships (indoor and outdoor) and Olympic medallist in the hurdles (male or female).

In 2017, Amusan raced to a then Personal Best (PB) of 12.57sec to win the NCAA title for the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP), making her the second fastest African in the women’s 100m Hurdles after Alozie, overtaking Angela Atede (another Nigerian) who has a time of 12.63sec and sits on third position on the all-time African list.

At the London Diamond League, Amusan would be aiming to become Africa’s fastest sprint hurdler after setting a new PB of 12.49sec about a week ago while competing at the Sotteville-lès-Rouen Meet in France, which is 0.05sec shy of Alozie’s record.

Amusan’s current PB is the third fastest in the world in 2019, and she actually came to the London Diamond League as the fastest hurdler on the start list.

Now in her final year at UTEP, Amusan has carved a niche for herself as Nigeria’s most consistent athlete in the last few years, which saw her win the African Championships and Commonwealth Games titles in her event in 2018. Her consistency earned her a deal with Adidas a couple of years back, and she has since become a regular face in top meetings across the world, including the Diamond League.

It would be great to see her break Alozie’s 21-year old record and become the continent’s No.1 sprint hurdler of all time.

And Divine’s not so perfect Diamond League debut

After a couple of absences that threatened Divine Oduduru’s debut as a professional athlete, the Texas Tech undergraduate finally showed up at the IAAF Diamond League in Monaco last weekend where he raced in the 100m alongside reigning World Champion Justin Gatlin, and Noah Lyles who is currently the fastest man in the world in the 200m this season.

A day before the Monaco meet, Oduduru announced that he had secured a sponsorship deal with Puma. However, things didn’t quite pan out the way both Divine and his new sponsors would have liked as he eventually finished 8th in Monaco with a time of 10.26sec.

Some have put his performance in Monaco down to first-time jitters associated with running on a big stage, while others feel that the challenges he’s faced in trying to secure visas for his meets (which eventually led to him missing the Lausanne Diamond League and the Gyulai István Memorial Meet in Hungary) may have left him mentally unprepared for his debut. Also, this was his first race since winning the NCAA double early June, so he may have been a little rusty.

Whatever the reason(s), I’m sure Divine has learnt his lessons and would now make the mental adjustment needed to help him cope with the new phase he’s found himself in. Running in the Diamond League is a whole different level from the collegiate circuit, and so he needs to adjust accordingly. Fortunately for him, Okagbare has been with him every step of the way, so she would be in the best position to provide the moral support he needs at this time of transition, going by the years of experience she has garnered.

After all it was not for nothing that she made it into the Guinness Book of Records in 2016 for being the athlete with the highest number of appearances in the Diamond League. I’m pleased that he’s finally made his debut as a professional athlete: now it’s time to make the big bucks!