Reigning Nigeria Shot Put record holder, Chukwuebuka Enekwechi, and multiple All Africa Games medallist, Doreen Amata, will lead Nigeria’s charge for gold medals as the track and field event of the 12th edition of the Games enters day two in Rabat, Morocco.
Enekwechi will be making his debut at the Games and he is the hot favourite to win the gold medal in the event. The Nigerian is clearly the best in Africa coming to the Games with his 21.80m new Nigeria record throw just last week in Schifflange, a town in south-western Luxembourg.
The mark has shot Enekwechi up to number 10 in the IAAF top list of performers so far this year, three steps ahead of South Africa’s Cremona Orazio, who will be the Nigerian’s hottest challenger today. Orazio has a personal season’s best of 21.51m and he is one of only four athletes who have thrown 21m and above so far this year at the Games. The other two includes another Nigerian, USA-based Ogundeji Dotun who holds a 21.05m personal season’s best, three centimetres outside what Egypt’s Hassan Mostafa has thrown this year.
The battle for the gold will however be between the ever-improving Nigerian who has thrown above 21m seven times this season and the South African who has thrown above 21m just once this year and in April. Like Enekwechi, Orazio will also be gunning for his first title in the event.
In the high jump, two-time winner, Amata will be aiming to make it a hat-trick of titles when the high jump event gets underway today.
Amata won in 2007 and 2011 and got a silver behind Lisa Labiche of Seychelles four years ago in Congo Brazaville. She is the favourites coming to the games following the 1.91m height she cleared last July in Decatur, Illinois, USA.
South Africa’s Julia Du Plessis is however tipped to challenge the Nigerian for the gold. She is coming to the Games with a 1.84m personal season’s best and Amata will have to reproduce the magic that gave her the 1.91m in Illinois to be guaranteed of the title.
The Nigerian has cleared 1.80m and above thrice this year with all coming between June and July and will need that consistency to sail into her third gold medal.
In the women’s Hammer throw, two Nigerians will be challenging for the gold medal. The first is Temi Ogunrinde who set a new 67.39m Nigeria record to pick up the silver medal last year at the African championship behind Morocco’s Soukaina Zakour.
This season, Ogunrinde is on top of the African list with a new Nigerian record of 68.85m and will be challenged for the gold by the second Nigerian in today’s line-up, Queen Obisesan who holds a personal season’s best of 65.52m and of course Egypt’s Rawan Ayman Ibrahim Barakat (66.52m).
In the 100m, Nigeria’s chances of picking the gold now looks brighter in the men’s with Blessing Okagbare’s disqualification in the women’s version totally knocking out Nigeria’s bid to be crowned African champion for the ninth time.
The Nigerian duo of Raymond Ekevwo and Itsekiri Usheoritse who ran 10.26 and 10.25 seconds to win their respective semi-final heats will have Ivory Coast’s Cisse Arthur, the only man who has broken 10 seconds in the line-up for today’s final (9.93), Gambia’s Camara Ebrahima who ran 10.27 seconds in the semi-finals and Ghana’s Joseph Amoah, the second fastest man in the field (10.01) so far this year to contend with.
For the women, the best Nigeria’s lone entrant, the pretty Joy Udo-Gabriel can hope for is either a silver or a bronze medal as the gold has been reserved for defending champion, Cote D’Ivoire’s Marie Josee Ta Lou barring any last minute injury.
Ta Lou, the double sprint silver medallist at the 2017 IAAF World Championship is the only athlete in today’s final and indeed in Africa who has ducked inside 11 seconds (10.93,10.96 and 10.98).
In the men’s 110m hurdles, Abejoye Oyeniyi looks good for another podium appearance after winning a silver medal behind South Africa’s Antonio Alkana at the African Championship in Asaba last year.
Alkana’s cat is conspicuosly missing in Rabat and the mice led by the three fastest men in the semis viz Senegal’s Mendy Louis Francois (13.70), Algeria’s Bouanani Amine (13.74) and Abejoye (13.93) will battle for the gold.