Udodi Chudi Onwuzurike has set a new championships record of 20.13 seconds and also becomes the sixth Nigerian to qualify for the 200m final at the World Athletics U-20 Championship in Nairobi, Kenya.
Onwuzurike’s objective at the event is to succeed Francis Obikwelu as the next Nigerian World U20 champion in the 200m and he is right on course.
The 18-year-old started on an impressive note, setting a new personal best of 20.47 seconds to win his first-round heat and qualify for the semi-final. In the semis, the high school graduate stormed to another personal best of 20.13 seconds, the fastest 200m time ever witnessed in the history of the championships and a new Nigerian U-20 record to qualify for Saturday’s final.
Standing between Onwuzurike and a second World U-20 200m gold 25 years after Obikwelu won in Sydney are two Africans, Bostwana’s reigning World U20 100m champion, Leslie Tebogo who ran a new 20.31 personal best to qualify for the final and Uganda’s Tarsis Orogot who scorched to a new 20.37 national record in the semifinal.
Interestingly, all Nigerian athletes who have made the final of the event ended up at the podium, starting with Olapade Adeniken who won a silver medal (20.88s) in 1988 in Sudbury, Canada.
He was followed by Davidson Ezinwa two years later in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. He also won a silver medal (20.75s) to add to the 100m gold he won a few days earlier.
Deji Aliu followed in the right footsteps of his predecessors four years later in Lisbon, Portugal, running 20.88 seconds to win the silver medal. This was after he had annexed the 100m gold a few days earlier.
Then came Obikwelu who made history as the second man after Trinidad and Tobago’s Ato Boldon and first African to successfully complete a sprint double at the championships. He won both the 100m (10.21) and 200m (20.47) gold.
It took Nigeria eight years to produce a fifth medallist in the event in the form of Divine Oduduru whose wind-aided 20.25 seconds return also landed him on the podium as a silver medal winner. Onwuzrike will however feel it is the gold this time as he also attempts the 20.10 seconds African U20 record held by South Africa’s Clarence Munyai.
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