Amusan Retains 100m Hurdles Title, Anchors Nigeria’s Sprint Relay to Another Gold

*Okezie emulates Innocent Egbunike, ends 37 years quarter-mile gold jinx

Duro Ikhazuagbe 

Oluwatobi Amusan survived a false start yesterday to claim her third African Games 100m hurdles gold medal in Accra, Ghana. She won it in 2015 (Congo Brazzaville) and 2019 in Morocco.

The petit Nigerian hurdler who is world record holder at 12.12secs in the event scorched to 12.89s (-2.1) ahead of Sidonie Fiadanantsoa of Madagascar who picked the silver in 13.19secs. Ashley Tinashe  of Zimbabwe clocked 13.59secs to win the consolation bronze  while the second Nigerian in the final, Faith Osamuyi (13.77secs) missed out on podium,  finishing  in the fourth place.

Amusan who could not match the new Games record of 12.68secs she set at the last edition in Rabat, Morocco, created a huge scare for some Nigerian officials inside the University of Ghana  Sports Stadium not familiar with the new false-start rule. 

The new World Athletics  rule that came into effect January 2023 replaced the previous false-start that automatically disqualifies any athlete that beats the gun. That rule knocked out former Jamaican track legend, Usain Bolt, from the finals of the 2011 World Athletics Championship in Daegu, South Korea. 

The new rule now allows one false-start before red card for any subsequent athlete that beats the starter’s  gun. This explains the yellow card that fans saw waved at Amusan before the restart of the race.

Amusan then calmly flew out of the blocks to take charge of the 100m hurdles race with no real or imagined threat from any of the other finalists. She led from start to finish.

Few minutes later, the Nigerian speedster, returned to anchor Nigeria’s 4x100m women’s squad of Justina  Eyakpobeyan, Olajide Olayinka and Fore Abinusawa to win the sprint relay gold medal.

Interestingly, Nigeria’s men sprint relay quartet of Sunday Israel Okon, Consider Ekanem, Alaba Akintola and Usheoritse Itsekiri also emulated their ladies. They stormed to the gold in 38.41secs, leaving hosts Ghana (38.43)  and Liberia (38.73) to pick the silver and bronze medals respectively. It was a sweet revenge for the coach of the Nigerian team, Deji Aliu who won the 100m but lost the sprint relay gold to the Ghanaians when Nigeria hosted the 8th edition in Abuja in 2003.

The first relay gold medal of the day came from Nigeria’s 4x400m Mixed relay team. The anchor of that team, Omolara Omotosho who just returned to athletics after five years break to have her two kids, ran the race of her life to come from behind to make  the gold possible for Nigeria. The other members of the mixed relay quartet include; Ifeanyi Ojeli, Patience Okon-George and Siliru Adeyemi.

It was a day of bountiful harvest of gold medals from the track and field for Team Nigerian athletes.

Also yesterday, Chidi Okezie made history as he stormed to Nigeria’s first African Games quarter mile gold in 37 years! Okezie raced home to the gold of the men’s 400m in 45.06secs. He emulated the feat of Innocent Egbunike who clocked 44.23secs to take the gold at the African Games in Nairobi, Kenya in 1987. Ever since, the best medal that Nigerian quarter-milers have fetched are all silver. The late Sunday Bada, Clement Chukwu and Tobiloba Ogunmola all  won silver medals in the 400m. The gold medal was an upgrade for Okezie who won silver at the last edition in Morocco.

In the women’s 400m final, surprise package, Esther Joseph ran yet another lifetime best, stopping the clock at 51.61 but it was not enough to stop Mary Moraa from becoming the first Kenyan woman in African Games history to win the 400m gold. 

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