By Dare Esan:
All eyes will be on Nigeria’s high jump queen and record holder (1.95m) Doreen Amata when the 20th edition of the African Athletics Championships begins in Durban, South Africa next week.
Amata, the greatest vertical jumper Nigeria has ever had has been listed by the Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN) among the 29 athletes that will don the green and white colours of Nigeria at the championships.
The mother of one will thus be making her third trip to the greatest athletics showpiece in Africa after two futile attempts.
Amata has been the biggest and best high jumper in Africa since South Africa’s Hestrie Cloete retired from the sport in mid 2000s and the Nigerian dominated the event at the 2007 All Africa Games in Algiers where she made her debut and repeated as winners four years later in Maputo, Mozambique.
For all her dominance which included two final appearances as the ONLY African at the IAAF Worlds in 2013 and 2015, Amata is yet to win an African Championships medal.
In fact no Nigerian female high jumper has struck gold in the history of the championships albeit Nigeria has won six of the 11 titles put on offer so far at the All Africa Games.
Amata made her African Championships debut in 2008, a year after she won the first of her two All Africa Games vertical jump titles but failed to make it to the podium after recording no mark in her first three jumps.
She was absent two years later in Nairobi, Kenya but staged a comeback in 2012 in Port Novo, Republic of Benin after some time out on the treatment table. She expectedly failed to fly into the podium, finishing fourth (1.75m) in an event Seychelles’ Lisa Labiche set a new 1.86m national record to win.
Amata was absent again in 2014 but remained Africa’s best with a 1.85m height.
She will thus be expected to rewrite the history of Nigeria’s participation in the championships by becoming the first Nigerian to win the high jump title.
She is top of the African list with a height of 1.88m, just one centimetre above the duo of compatriot Uhunoma Osazuwa and Labiche going to the championships but will have to spare a thought for the 2012 winner who upset the Nigerian at the All African Games last year, clearing a height of 1.91m,t he second highest winning height in the history of the Games behind Cloete’s 1.96m effort in 1999.