By Tony Ubani
Nigeria’s U-20 track and field athletes have re-written the history of Nigeria’s participation at the biennial World Athletics U20 championships after finishing third on the medals table with an unprecedented haul of four gold and three bronze medals.
The highest Nigeria has ended on the medals table prior to the just-ended event in Nigeria was her seventh-place finish at the third edition of the championships in 1990 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria where they won two gold, two silver and two bronze medals.
The four gold medals won at the just ended championships in Nairobi, Kenya is the highest Nigeria has won, two more than the country has ever won in any edition of the championships.
Nigeria’s 4x400m mixed relay team began the unprecedented haul with its historic, championships record-setting performance (3:19.70CR) on the opening day of the championships.
Reigning the fastest U17 quarter-miler in the world, 17-year-old Imaobong Nse Uko added the second in the women’s 400m with a new 51.55 seconds personal best. The win made her the fourth Nigerian woman to win the event after Fatimah Yusuf (1990), Bisi Afolabi (1994) and Folashade Abugan (2008).
USA-based Udodi Onwuzurike gave Nigeria the third gold in the men’s 200m, also setting a new 20.21 seconds personal best in the process. The half-lap gold was Nigeria’s second since Francis Obikwelu won it in 1996 to successfully complete his sprint double down under in Sydney, Australia.
The women’s 4x400m relay team put the icing on the cake with their dominant display on their way to winning Nigeria’s second gold medal in the relay in the history of the championships. The quartet ran a new World U20 lead of 3:31.46 to crown a golden outing for Nigeria.
In addition to the four gold medals, the team also picked three bronze medals with one coming from an unfamiliar territory, the men’s javelin.
Chinacherem Nnamdi set a new 78.02m national U20 record in the qualifiers for the javelin but couldn’t replicate the feat in the final which could have given him the gold. The 19-year-old’s 74.48m throw landed him in the bronze medal position, a first-ever for Nigeria in the event.
Favour Ofili added the second bronze medal in the women’s 200m, also setting a new 22.23 seconds personal best and National U20 record before helping the women’s 4x100m team to a bronze medal finish in 43.90 seconds.
Quartermile barrier runner, Nathaniel Ezekiel also set an impressive personal best (49.89 seconds) in the men’s 400m hurdles to finish fourth, Nigeria’s best ever position in the event. He has also become the 13th Nigerian to break the 50 seconds barrier in the event and has moved up to number 12 in the Nigerian all-time list.