–Amusan begins race for 100m hurdles title
By Dare Esan:
Mercy Ntia-Obong’s bid to become the third Nigerian to win a blue ribband medal at the IAAF World Junior Championships fell flat on Thursday when she placed in last in the final of the 100m of the 16th edition of the championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
Tina Iheagwan won Nigeria’s only gold medal in the event at the inaugural edition of the champioships in Athens, Greece in 1986 while Uduak Ekah picked up the bronze medal at the seventh edition in Annecy, France in 1998.
Ntia-Obong who qualified for the final as one of the two fastest losers in the semi-final after placing fourth (11.58 seconds) in the second semis had become the fifth Nigerian woman to make the 100m final after Iheagwan and Mary Onyali in 1986, Ekah in 1998 and a relatively unknown Silas Stella in 2010.
She was up against formidable rivals in the final including eventual winner, USA’s Candance Hill, who ran a new 11.07 seconds championships record to add to the IAAF World Youth gold medal she won last year in Cali, Colombia in the same event; home girl Ewa Swoboda (11.12) who broke Ekah’s 7.08 seconds world U-20 60m record in February (7.07 seconds), and Trinidad and Tobago’s Khalifa St Fort who won the bronze medal (11.18).
She is trained by former world 200m champion, Ato Boldon.
Ntia-Obong will have another chance to go for a podium appearance in the 200m event which begins on Friday.
The Nigerian is drawn in lane five in the fifth heat of the half lap race while Anikeme Alphonsus who failed to make the 100m semis will run from lane two in the third heat.
The two Nigerians are expected to be among the four automatic qualifiers for the semi-finals.
Meanwhile Nigeria’s only genuine hope for a medal, sprint hurdler Tobiloba Amusan, will begin her journey into immortality on Friday.
Amusan, the fastest U-20 girl at 12.83 seconds so far this year, has been drawn in the final heat (6) of the event and should be among the three automatic qualifiers for Saturday’s semi-final.
The Nigerian’s main opponent for the title, USA’s Tia Jones who like Amusan has also broken 13 seconds in the event this year, will run from lane seven in the second heat.
Other contenders include Belarus’ Elvira Herman, the third fastest girl coming to the championships has been drawn in lane four of the fourth heat while another American Alexis Duncan who upstaged Jones in the final of the American championships will run from lane five in heat five.
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