By Duro Ikhazuagbe
After a rather dismal start to their quest for medals at the London Olympics, Team Nigeria appears to have found its rhythm and rekindled hopes that a medal might be won afterall. The optimism emerged after five Nigerian athletes surged into the semi finals of the 100m, 400m and 400m hurdles.
Amaechi Morton, Regina George and Omolara Omotosho all got past the hurdles of the first day of the track and field of the London 2012 to berth in the semis taking place today (Saturday).
Blessing Okagbare continued her blazing form yesterday qualifying for the semi final of the 100m with a new personal best time of 10.93 seconds. Her previous best was 10.96 set at the Monaco Grand Prix a fortnight ago.
The fifth Nigerian to make the semi final was Gloria Asumnu (11.13) who finished third in her heat behind Jamaican Veronica Campbell- Brown (10.94) and Ivet Lalova (11.06) of Bulgaria.
Okagbare said in a post race chat that she was excited and hoping everything falls in place today in the semi final race. "The gold is anybody's. I am going to do my best to ensure that I do my best to make the country proud," she said.
400m hurdler, Morton, ran a time of 49.34 seconds to place third in heat one of the event where Javier Culson has the leading time of 48.33 into today's semi final.
Morton who switched allegiance to Nigeria in 2009 was excited making the semis in his first Olympic appearance.
"I feel good running in my first Olympic and also making it to the semis. I hope to better my performance today which I believe is below what I am capable of doing," observed the lad who was almost frustrated into making a u-turn to the USA after a poor outing at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, Germany.
George who won her 400m heat in 51.24 secs was equally glad making the semis in her first Olympic outing.
"I am feeling real good right now. I am having the feeling that I can get into the final even though I was initially nervous on the starting block," said George who like Morton is US-based.
Although her 51.24 secs was no where near the 51.11 that gave her a silver medal behind World Champion, Amantle Montsho, at the African Championships, Geroge insisted that now that she was in the semis: "I am going to run as if it is the final race. I don't care if it is the semi final."
She is unfazed by the presence of 2011 World Champion, Montsho, Beijing Olympic gold medallist, Christine Ohuruogu, and former champion, American Sanya Richards-Ross.
"I don't care about the presence of top runners. I am going to do my race without being intimidated by anybody," said the athlete who failed a dope test because of a prescribed medication she has been taking for four years. She was cleared by WADA just in time for the Games.