By Dare Esan In Beijing:
It was a case of one George in and another George out for team Nigeria as the first round of the women’s 400m was concluded Monday morning at the IAAF World Athletics Championships here in Beijing.
Patience Okon-George, the reigning Nigerian champion, made it to her first IAAF Worlds quartermile semis after running 50.87 seconds, her second fastest career best, to come third in the fifth heat of the first round battle and grab one of the three automatic slots for the semi-final behind Blanca Razor of Romania who ran a new 50.37 personal best and Shericka Jackson of Jamaica who ran 50.41 seconds to place second.
Reginna George however failed to make it a consecutive semi-final appearance after impressing in her debut two years ago in Moscow at the Championships’ 14th edition, running a 50.84 seconds personal best.
Here in Beijing, she could only place fourth with her 51.74 seonds run in the fourth of the six heats thereby missing the automatic ticket slot.
Her wait to see if she could squeeze in as one of the six fastest losers ended agonisingly as she was just a step away at number 25 from the 24 athletes that will compete in Tuesday’s semi-final.
George had been touted as the next big thing in Nigerian track and field after the former junior USA international dazzled all to win her first Nigerian trials in 2012 following her switch of allegiance.
Her career however started taking a nose dive at the IAAF World Indoor Championships at the Ergo Arena in Sopot, Poland last year when, after posting the best time in the first round of the 400m (51.60 seconds), the Athletic Federation of Nigeria naively failed to obtain a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for her. The TUE is required for an athlete if the medication he or she requires to treat an illness or a condition happens to fall under the prohibited list of substances.
Regina failed to come out for the semi-final of the event for the fear of getting banned for doping and lost a glorious chance of picking Nigeria’s second medal in the event following Falilat Ogunkoya’s silver medal win inside the Green Dome in Maebashi, Japan in 1999.
Regina seems not to have recovered from the disappointment of seeing her dreams implode without her fault and has failed to break 51 seconds outdoors since then, running 51.30 personal season’s best in 2014 and so far in 2015.
The third Nigerian in the event, home girl Tosin Adeloye, expectedly crashed out in the first round, placing fifth in heat two won by Nigeria-born Briton, Christine Ohuruogu.
Adeloye ran 52.42 seconds while Ohuruogu ran 51.01 seconds.
USA’s multiple world champion Allison Felix won the first heat in 50.60 seconds as she bids to add a first 400m individual gold to already rich collection.