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Monday, December 11, 2023

Ese Brume, Ogunlewe, Itsekiri crash as Nigeria’s hopes dim in Budapest |

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Coach blames bad weather for Enekwechi’s early exit

Nigeria’s hope of grabbing a medal in the women’s long jump event faded yesterday, as Ese Brume finished fourth in the final. Though, she recorded a season’s best jump of 6.84 metres, it was not enough to give Nigeria a medal.

Brume, who grabbed a silver medal at the last Athletics Championships in Oregon, U.S., had given Nigerians hope on Saturday of a fruitful outing this term, when she scaled the first hurdles on a day other athletes faltered. She placed fourth in Group A of the qualification with a jump of 6.72m.

Many thought the long jumper could improve to guarantee a podium finish yesterday. She did by jumping 6.84m but not enough for medals table. Brume was on her way to clinching her third straight Championships medal in the long jump event after her 6.84m second round leap was not bettered by the chasing pack, which included 30-year-old Romania’s Alina Rotaru-Kottmann.

With reigning world indoor champion, Ivana Vuleta, consolidating on her 7.05m second round lead with a massive 7.14m world lead in the fifth round and U.S.’s Tara Davis-Woodhall’s 6.91m first round effort ‘safely’ looking ‘uncatchable’, Brume also looked a sure bet for the bronze.

Rotaru-Kottmann was in seventh position going into the final round, but seemed to have saved her best for the last as she flew high into the sky and landed with her first 6.8m (6.88m) of the championship.

Brume would have become the first Nigerian to win three medals at the Championships following wins in 2019 and 2022 and the first to win in three consecutively editions.

She was also on the way to extending her record of being the only athlete to win more than once in the same event at the Championships and the oldest woman to win for Nigeria.

Attention will now shift to sprint hurdler, Tobi Amusan, as Nigeria hopes to make it three consecutive appearances on the medal table. Earlier, two of Nigeria’s entrants in the 100 metres men, Ushoritse Itsekiri and Seye Ogunlewe, had ended their interests in the event with poor shows in their respective semifinals.

While Ogunlewe placed fifth in his semifinal group with 10.12 seconds, Itsekiri finished eighth in his race in a time of 10.19 seconds. AFN board member and Performance Director, U.S.-based Victor Okorie, told The Guardian shortly after the race that the athletes might not have prepared themselves adequately for the championships.

“Nigeria needs to borrow a leaf from Jamaica and some other countries in preparing for a championship of this magnitude. Jamaican athletics team spent three weeks in Belgium for this championships. They also spent additional 10 days in Budapest before the commencement of this championships. Tell me why they won’t do well.

“The government of Nigeria must step in to help the AFN in giving the athletes the best of preparations. But I also believe our athletes must help themselves. There are some positives the AFN had taken from here. All hopes for a medal are not lost yet,” Okorie stated.

Meanwhile, Team Nigeria’s Shot Putter, Chukwuebuka Enekwechi’s poor outing at the championships has been blamed on bad weather. Enekwechi and the 4x400m mixed relay quartet of Dubem Nwachukwu, Patience Okon George, Nathaniel Ezekiel and Imaobong Nse Uko could not make it beyond the opening day of the championships.

The U.S.-based Enekwechi, a finalist in the last two editions, threw 20.69m in the opening round in Budapest to exit the championships. However, his coach, Gabriel Opuana, explained to The Guardian at the Pak Inn Hotel, Budapest, yesterday, that the poor result was not entirely the fault of Enekwechi.

“Enekwechi came into this championships fully prepared, and with the hope of making it to the final and winning a medal for Team Nigeria,” Opuana said. “But we got to the venue only for Enekwechi to meet a different thing. The bad weather was a major factor after the rain, which affected majority of the throwers.

“The ground became slippery, which made some of the athletes to lose their balance. Enekwechi was also affected because he fell on two occasions. We are not using it as an excuse, but the bad weather played a major role,” he stated.

According to Opuana, the 30-year-old thrower has put the disappointment behind him.

“Our major focus for now is to prepare for next year’s African Games in Ghana and the Olympic Games in Paris. Hopefully, Enekwechi will make Nigerians proud in the two championships,” Opuana stated. The Guardian recalls that Enekwechi finished eighth in his debut at the Championships in 2019 in Doha, Qatar and 11th in Oregon, USA last year,.

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