Tobi Amusan: Will lightning strike twice?
After securing her place in the final of the 100m hurdles at the World Athletics Championships for the third consecutive time on Wednesday, Tobi Amusan gazed towards the sky and uttered, “Lord, I am grateful. I have nothing else but to thank you for the protection and strength you’ve granted me. The journey isn’t over yet, but I believe you’ll see me through.”
Tonight, the spotlight will be on Amusan at the National Athletics Stadium in Budapest for the final of the women’s 100m hurdles. As the defending champion, she now stands the chance to make further history. She impressively came from behind in the semi-final heat on Wednesday, clocking in at 12.56 seconds.
This evening, 26-year-old Amusan will strive to achieve a remarkable feat: becoming the first Nigerian to successfully defend all the titles she has secured throughout her career.
Amusan’s history of title defence began with her African Games victory in 2019. She continued the trend in 2022 by successfully defending her 100m hurdles title, which she initially won in Asaba, Delta state, in 2018. She also secured back-to-back wins in the Nigerian championships in 2022, and a mere two months ago during the National Trials in Benin City, completing a hat-trick of victories.
In the previous year, Amusan set a Games record of 12.30 seconds as she defended her Commonwealth Games title, which she first won in 2018. She concluded the year with another successful defence of her Diamond League title, achieving a 12.29 meeting record at the Weltklasse in Zurich, Switzerland.
Amusan faced suspension after being charged for Whereabouts Failures by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU). However, she was cleared to compete just before the ongoing World Championships commenced.
The prevailing question on the minds of millions of Nigerians right now is: Will lightning strike twice?
According to Samuel Onikeku, the Technical Director of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Amusan has not only prepared herself physically but also mentally for the challenge tonight.
“One positive aspect in Tobi’s favor in this championship is the spacing between events,” Onikeku shared with The Guardian on Thursday at the Team’s Park Inn hotel Radisson in Budapest. “Tobi has ample time to recover before the next event. She excels in high-stakes situations, and I have no doubt in my mind. We will celebrate the gold medal today,” Onikeku affirmed.
However, some Nigerians believe Amusan must ensure she starts better than she did in Wednesday’s semi-final. During that race, she had to come from behind to secure victory against athletes she should typically outpace comfortably.
In the last edition of the championship held in Oregon, United States, Amusan accomplished a remarkable feat by setting a world outdoor track and field record of 12.12 seconds in the semi-finals. This made her the first Nigerian, male or female, to achieve such a record. She followed it up with a historic 12.06 seconds in the final, propelled by a tailwind, to become the first Nigerian to win a world outdoor title.
The scene is similarly charged in Budapest. In tonight’s final, Amusan will face familiar rivals, including reigning Olympic champion and the third fastest woman this year at 12.31 seconds, Jasmine Camacho-Quinn. Former world record holder Kendra Harrison, who clocked in at 12.24 seconds (a world lead) and 12.33 seconds in the semi-finals, the fastest qualifying time, will also be among her competitors.
Former world champions Nia Ali (2019) and Danielle Williams (2015) are also in contention for what promises to be a thrilling final this evening at the National Athletics Centre in Budapest.
Stay tuned to The Guardian for live updates on Team Nigeria’s performance in Budapest.
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