–As 4x400m Relay Team Fails In Rescue Mission
By Dare Esan In Beijing:
Nigeria's hopes of making a back-to-back appearance on the medals table at the IAAF world championships was effectively dashed Sunday night in Beijing when the women's 4x400m relay team failed to live up to billing in the final, running 3:25.11 to place fifth.
The team, led by open 400m semi-finalist Patience Okon-George had raised hopes of a possible medal finish when they ran a historic 3:23:27, the fastest time ever run by a Nigerian team in the history of the championships to win their semi-final heat ahead of Jamaica.
Complete Sports had warned Nigerians not to raise their hopes too high because the contending teams, namely USA, Jamaica and Great Britain did not unleash all their arsenal in the semi-final.
Complete Sports even predicted the best the team could hope for was a bronze and they had to fight Britain to get it.
In Sunday's final, USA brought in Allyson Felix who ran 49.26 seconds to win the open 400m gold.
The Jamaicans brought in Stephanie McPherson and Novlene Williams-Milils who both ran in themopen 400m together with Sherickam-Jackson and Christine Day while, as Complete Sports predicted, Britain called on former world champion in 400 Christine Ohuruogu and 400m barrier runner, Elidh Child.
With the fresh legs and Nigeria parading the same set that ran in the semis, it was always going to be a diiificult task for the team.
Nigeria had hoped double Commonwealth sprint queen, Blessing Okagbare, would deliver the medals but the African record holder in the 100m failed to raise her game when it matterred as she placed eighth in the 100m and didn't come out for the 200m.
With only three individuals in the final and a relay team, Nigeria equalled her second worst position in the IAAF placing table with a paltry six points. Nigeria recorded her worst placing ever in 2005, raking up only two points.
The eighth-placed finish by Okagbare and triple jumper, Tosin Oke, fetched one point each while the 1600 relay team's fifth-place finish fetched four points to equal the points tally recorded in 2007 in Osaka, Japan.
Meanwhile the team is expected back home on Monday after they left for the airport straight from the stadium moments after the 4x400m relay team finished their race.
Many African journalists here wondered why the AFN treat the athletes like animals.
"Some of the girls who ran in the 4x400m could easily be injured if you rush them onto the plane straight after competition for a 10 hours plus non-stop flight from Beijing to Adis Ababa," respected athletics coach, Pat Itanyi, said when she got to know about the athletes' ordeal.
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