By Ikeddy Isiguzo
Tobi Amusan became the first Nigerian athlete to win a World Athletics Championships gold as she stormed to victory in the women’s 100m hurdles in Oregon on Sunday. The clock stopped at 12.06 seconds!
Was it going to be second shock of the day? Another world record?
Nigeria has been participating in the World Championships since its inaugural edition in Helsinki, Finland in 1983. Triple jumper Ajayi Agbebaku won a bronze medal then in what was considered a poor showing.
Nigeria’s team to Helsinki had high hopes as five gold medalists from the World Universities Games, a month earlier, were among its members.
Innocent Egbunike, 400m, won a silver at the second edition of the Championships in Rome. He was the favourite for gold but a long season that included running at the 1987 All-Africa Games in Nairobi’s high attitude meant he arrived Rome off his peak, just week after Nairob.
World Championships were then held every four years but biennially after the 1991 event in Tokyo. The best results in subsequent years were silver medals from – men’s 100m quartet (Osmond Ezinwa, Adeniken Olapade, Francis Obikwelu, Davidson Ezinwa) in 1997, 10 years after Egbunike; Glory Alozie, 100m hurdles (1999); Blessing Okagbare, long jump (2013).
Amusan was born 10 years after Nigeria won her first silver medal from the Championships. Her gold medal achieved in blistering pace on Sunday ended Nigeria’s 39-year search for gold at the Championships. Many of those years recorded empty results. The years of droughts were 1991, 1993, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2015, 2017, 2019.
The amazing 12.12 seconds world record Amusan set in the semi-final placed doubts on her medal chances in the final which was less than two hours away.
Commentators on the social media thought she had run her best race too early. The contention was that she would not recover before the final.
She returned to claim gold in 12.06 seconds which would have been another if the wind reading of 2.5 metres per second had not been above the legal limit for records.
Jamaica’s Britany Anderson took silver in 12.23 seconds. Tokyo Olympic champion Jasmine Camacho-Quinn of Puerto Rico, promoted as the favourite claimed bronze in 12.23 seconds, the same as Anderson. Amusan races at the Tokyo Olympics ended in the semi-final.
“Honestly, I believe in my abilities but I was not expecting a world record at these championships,” Amusan said after her final victory. “The goal is always just to execute well and get the win. So the world record is a bonus. I knew I had it in me but I could not believe it when I saw it on the screen after the semis,” she said.
“Before the final, I just tried to stay calm and to do my best. I took a deep breath knowing that I have some goal to accomplish and it worked pretty good. I knew it was very fast but not this fast.”
Former record holder Kendra Harrison, 12.20 seconds, who was silver medalist at the 2019 World Championships at the Tokyo Olympics, another of the favourites, was disqualified in the final.
Amusan shed tears of joy on the podium. She earned $100,000 for the world record. More earnings would come from Athletics World, and her sponsors.