Saturday, 10th June 2023

Focus on Africa as world junior athletes gather in Nairobi

By Gowon Akpodonor
14 August 2021   |   4:06 am
After two weeks of glamour at the Tokyo Olympic Games, focus has shifted to Nairobi, Kenya, venue of the 2021 World Athletics U-20 Championships. It will run from August 17 to 22.

Favour Ofili

After two weeks of glamour at the Tokyo Olympic Games, focus has shifted to Nairobi, Kenya, venue of the 2021 World Athletics U-20 Championships. It will run from August 17 to 22.

Over 1,300 athletes from 128 countries are expected to compete in the Championships, which had discovered many great stars for various nations.

Host country, Kenya, will field 44 athletes for the competition, just as Team Nigeria has named a 27- man list. India has 28 athletes, and Botswana is sending 18-member squad for the junior championships.

In Team Nigeria’s squad to Nairobi 2021 U20 Championship are three U.S.-based junior athletes. They are Favour Ofili (Louisiana), Best Erhire (Tennessee) and Udodi Onwuzurike (Michigan).

Other athletes to watch out for in Team Nigeria
Include Praise Ofoku, Olayinka Sholademi Olajide, Chukwuma Obi, Tima Godbless, Anita Taviore,
Favour Oghenetejiri Ashe, Godson Brume, Fakorede Adekalu, Mabilo Nicholas, Udodi Onwuzurike and Kingsley Unorji,

There is also Opeyemi Oke, Ada Bright, Osaretin Joy, Bamidele Ajayi, Johnson Chidera, Ekporere Prosper Oghenemine, Sarah Ochigbo, Nathaniel Ezekiel, Ruth Agadama, Esther Osisike, Omamuyovwi Best Erhire, Aya David and Nnamdi Chinecherem.
Nigeria’s Imaobong Nse Uko (400m)

One of Nigeria’s brightest stars in the junior category, Uko, who competed in the mixed 4 × 400 metres relay event at the Tokyo Olympics, is leading Team Nigeria’s women’s 400m and 4x400m relay in Nairobi.

Nigeria’s Favour Chukwuka Ofili She is a specialist in the 200 metres and 400 metres sprints. Ofili was at Tokyo Olympics Games but did not compete. She is the 2019 African Games silver medalist in the 400 metres. She is also a 200 and 400 medallist at the 2019 African Youth Championships.

Ofili is expected to compete in four events, 100m, 200m, 4x100m and 4x400m relay in Nairobi.
Uganda’s Prisca Chesang, is among the athletes expected to dominate the 3000m in Nairobi.

Chesang was in action at the Tokyo Olympics hoping to gain experience ahead of Nairobi U-20 Championships.

According to World Athletics, Chesang may realise her target in Kenya, as she is third-quickest among the entries with her Personal Best of 9:04.15 set, when she won at the Ugandan trials.

The then 17-year-old qualified for the Olympics by clocking 15:05.39 for 5000m at the Ethiopian trials in Hengelo, her first overseas event, in June and went on to finish 15th in her heat in Tokyo, a week before her 18th birthday. Switzerland’s Ditaji Kambundji is a star to look out for in 100m hurdles.

Having started out as a heptathlete, the 19-year-old has since focused on the 100m hurdles and claimed the European U-20 title in the event before forming part of the Swiss team at the Tokyo Olympics. She finished eighth in her heat.

With a PB of 12.94, which is the Swiss U-20 record, Kambundji sits second on this season’s world U-20 list behind only Jamaica’s Ackera Nugent (12.76).

Kambundji will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of the second eldest sister, Mujinga, who won world 200m bronze in Doha in 2019.

Namibia’s Christine Mboma, 200m and 4x100m Running the race of her life, Mboma secured Olympic silver in Tokyo, breaking the world U-20 and African senior records with 21.81 seconds. That time saw the 18-year-old finish behind Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah, who completed the ‘double double’ in Tokyo as she retained both her Olympic 100m and 200m titles.

After taking to the Tokyo start line with a best of 22.67, Mboma had improved to 22.11 in the heats and then 21.97 in the semifinals before going even faster in the final. As was the case at the Olympics, Mboma will again be joined on the Namibian team in Nairobi by her training partner, Beatrice Masilingi, who ran a PB of 22.28 to finish sixth in Tokyo.

Nicaragua’s Yeykell Eliuth Romero, 100m
Despite having taken up athletics initially as part of his training for baseball, Romero broke the 35-year-old Nicaraguan 100m record in May when he clocked 10.65 to win the national title.

The 18-year-old went even quicker when finishing second at the Central American Championships the following month, improving his best to 10.50.

Taking to the track at the Olympics in Tokyo, Romero ran 10.62 to qualify from the preliminary heats, and he will now be looking to build on that as he returns to the global stage once again.