Nigeria’s fast-rising female sprinter, Grace Nwokocha has made a strong case for the appearance of home-based athletes in the country’s contingent for majorinternational competitions, following her qualification for the semi-finals of the women’s 100m at the ongoing Olympic Games.
The 20-year-old home-based athlete pulled off the feat at the start of track and field events in Tokyo, Japan, where the 2020 Olympics are unfolding, thereby making it the first time since London 2012 that two Nigerian athletes qualified for the semi-finals of the women’s 100m.
However, while Blessing Okagbare was barred from competing further, following the revelation of her filed drugs test on Friday night, Nwokocha, who competed against the fastest woman on earth, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, was cleared for Saturday’s epic stage.
That came barely 24 hours after Nwokocha, who is making her debut at the Olympics, ran a new personal best of 11.00 seconds to secure a place in the semi-finals and moved to fifth position in the Nigeria all-time women’s 100m finishing times, behind Okagbare (10.79), Glory Alozie (10.90) Mary Onyali (10.97), and Damola Osayomi (10.99).
The home-based athlete, who ran 11.09 seconds to secure her qualification for the Olympics in March at the MOC Grand Prix in Lagos, will chase further history by breaking the 11s barrier as the fifth Nigerian woman to do so, in order to join Onyali and Okagbare as debutants that made it to the final.
For Saturday’s semi-final, Nwokocha was drawn to run from lane nine in the third heat alongside Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, Daryl Neita of Great Britain, Teahna Daniels of the USA, and fellow African, Muriel Ahoure of Ivory Coast.
To reach the Tokyo 2020 Games in the first place, Nwokocha sealed her place as Nigeria’s queen of the track with a dominant victory in the women’s 200m, 48 hours after claiming the 100m title at the 20th National Sports Festival in Benin City, Edo State.
Running in the colours of Delta State, Nwokocha dipped under 23s for the first time in her career and sealed qualification to the Tokyo Olympics with a Personal Best of 22.79s.