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Tobi Amusan: A path to World Record ‘constructed’ in Warri

By Gowon Akpodonor
26 July 2022   |   3:27 am
“On occasions like this, we will not forget the days of small beginnings. Our modest efforts helped to expose and nurture these athletes. I took some decisions against all odds, but I am glad their sporting career have taken good shape.”

“On occasions like this, we will not forget the days of small beginnings. Our modest efforts helped to expose and nurture these athletes. I took some decisions against all odds, but I am glad their sporting career have taken good shape.”

Those were the words of Commodore Omatseye Nesiama (Rtd), former Technical Director of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), shortly after sprint hurdler, Tobi Amusan, broke a world record at the World Athletics Championship, which ended yesterday morning in Oregon, United States.

Just when many athletics followers thought that Nigeria could return from Oregon empty handed following the failure by the team’s men and women sprinters in their respective events, Amusan came to the party with a huge surprise, winning gold medal in the 100m hurdles, the first ever by a Nigerian in the history of the World Athletics Championships.

Apart from being Nigeria’s first ever gold medallist in the championship, Amusan’s 12.06 seconds mark, wind-added (+2.5 m/s), was the first in 36 years. It was the fourth world record set in women’s hurdles. The first two world records were set back in 1969, when Nigeria was still fighting its civil war. Then, women hurdles were moving up from the 80 metres to the present day 100 metres.

Nesiama, who is in the current board of the AFN and NNPP Senatorial candidate for Delta South Senatorial District, said: “Our true labour of love shall never go unrewarded and this is one of such. Cheers to all the unsung heroes that have always worked faithfully behind the scenes. To God be the glory.”

He recalled how the journey started: “What a great feat achieved by the duo of Tobi Amusan and Ese Brume, winning gold and silver medals at the World Championships in Athletics Oregon 2022. These two athletes were discovered during my time as AFN Technical Director.

“The duo shone at Eko 2012 National Sports Festival, and thereafter, I included Tobi in our team for the 2013 African Youth Athletics Championships held in Warri. That was where she came to limelight.

“I took her to the World Youth Championships held in Donetsk, Ukraine in 2013. It was at that championship that Divine Oduduru came up with his famous line of having African blood flowing through him. I also took Ese Brume to the African Junior Championships held in Mauritius in 2013. That was where she came to limelight. I took some of these steps against all odds because I wanted to expose and nurture them carefully throughout my time.”

Amusan’s world record of 12.06 seconds at Oregon is also better than the 12.20 seconds by Keni Harrison of U.S. in 2016.

Before she won the gold yesterday, Amusan actually broke the world record in her semifinal heat one, running a legal 12.12 seconds, the first in 36 years. Jamaica’s Brilary Anderson picked the silver, while Jasmin Camacho-Quinn (Peru) got the bronze.

Amusan’s world record earned her $100,000.

On day one of the women’s 100m hurdles on Saturday evening, Amusan proved to everyone that she in the form of her life, as she improved on her African record in the hurdles event with a time of 12.40s (+1.5).

It was Amusan’s third straight semifinals in World Athletics Championships history.

After her race on Saturday, she wrote on her Facebook page: “God is working His purpose out. 12.42s–12.41s–12.40s. Glad to have broken the African Record three times. I don’t know why it’s coming by 0.01s each time. “I am trusting God through the rounds.”

The message changed soon after she won the gold medal: “I believe in my ability, but I was never expecting a world record.”

Having eclipsed Gloria Alozie’s 12.44s record at the Championships, Amusan did not just fulfill her dream of becoming the second Nigerian woman to win a World Championships medal in this event, but has set a record no other Nigerian, and indeed African, has achieved. Alozie won the silver medal at the championships’ seventh edition in Seville, Spain in 1999.

After the race, Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) President, Tonobok Okowa, sent congratulatory messages to Amusan and Brume for their victory.

Brume grabbed a silver medal in the long jump, leaping 7.02 metres. Malaika Mihambo of Germany won the gold with a leapt of 7.12 metres. Brume was the only Nigerian to win a medal at the last edition of the world championships in Qatar, Doha in 2019. She was also Nigeria’s only medallist at the Tokyo Olympics as well as the last World Indoor Championship held in Belgrade, Serbia, in March this year.

“I can’t believe what has just happened in the history of Nigeria’s athletics,” Okowa told The Guardian.

“A big congratulations to Amusan and Brume for this historic moment. Our struggle was not in vain. They have made Nigeria proud. They have given me more hope and the courage to do more for athletics irrespective of the challenges we are facing,” Okowa said.