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Team Nigeria missing at World Athletics relays in Poland

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Blessing Okagbare and other Nigerian athletes won’t be in Poland today for the World Relays

Team Nigeria will not be among the contending nations as the World Athletics Relays begin in Chorzow, Poland today.

The 24 athletes listed for the World Relays by the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) could not make the trip due to the refusal by the Polish embassy in Nigeria to issue them visas. The embassy claimed the AFN submitted its visa applications late. The event is aimed at qualifying the relay teams for the Tokyo Olympics.

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In the absence of Team Nigeria, Great Britain’s women are among the main medal contenders with Zoey Clark, Emily Diamond, and Laviai Nielsen on parade. They were part of the 4x400m quartet that finished fourth in the 2019 World Championships in Doha.

They are joined by Jessie Knight and Ama Pipi who, along with Clark, won European Indoor silver in February.

World and Olympic champions, United States, are not taking part.

Great Britain has opted not to send any 4x100m teams, but will also compete in the men’s 4x400m and the mixed 400m relay, which will make its debut as an Olympic event in Tokyo this summer.

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Britain’s men’s team is led by Dwayne Cowan and Rabah Yousif Bkheit, who were part of the team that won bronze at London 2017.

Joe Brier, Lee Thompson, James Williams, Charlie Dobson, Efe Okoro, and Kevin Metzger are also making the trip on the men’s side with Yasmin Liverpool and Jessica Turner completing the women’s squad.

What are the World Athletics Relays?
This is only the fifth staging of the event, with the first being held in Nassau, Bahamas in 2014.

There is some prize money, with $40,000 (£28k) for the winning teams in the 4x100m and 4x400m relay finals.

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However, the main draw is a chance to sharpen up teamwork under race pressure three months before the Olympics.

Who are the main threats?

Jamaica had seemed likely to be favourites in several events after naming a team that included reigning Olympic 100m and 200m champion Elaine Thompson-Herah and former 100m world record holder Asafa Powell.

In the wake of their withdrawal, it is a more open field.

Dafne Schippers is part of a strong Netherlands team in the women’s 4x100m, while Commonwealth 100m champion Akani Simbine and Olympic medallist Christophe Lemaitre run for South Africa and France in the men’s equivalent.

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Hosts Poland is defending the women’s 4x400m title they won ahead of the United States two years ago in Yokohama

In the women’s 4x400m, hosts Poland will contend after picking up European Indoor bronze behind Great Britain earlier this year but are without European champion Justyna Swiety-Ersetic.

Instead, a Netherlands team that includes 21-year-old rising star Femke Bol may be favourites.

In the men’s event, watch out for a Belgian team that includes twins Jonathan and Kevin Borlee and their younger brother Dylan, and a Colombia squad that features world silver medallist Anthony Zambrano.

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