Rather than bring an empty bowl, Team Nigeria bowled over the world. Thanks to Tobi Amusan, who set a world record in the 100 metres hurdles race at the 2022 World Athletics Championships at Eugene, Oregon in the United States.
The world sings her rhyme today, but the 25-year-old Nigerian brings great cheer to a country ravaged by abysmal governance, communal fear and towns racked by hordes of criminal gangs. She renewed evidence that the country possesses the genius to lead the world, to turn talent into a laurel and make Nigeria a land of peace and prosperity.
Such feats take hard work as Amusan has demonstrated. She was not always world tops. Even going into the WAC, she had back-to-back fourth positions. She roared into a world record in the semi-final at 12.12 seconds. She trounced it at 12.06 in the final but the boisterous speed wind discounted it. She has an opportunity to beat even that record at another competition. She tossed aside the record of Kendra Harrison. Amusan is not our own Usain Bolt. She is our own Amusan, a Nigerian original.
In spite of the remarks of former 200m and 400m world record holder Michael Johnson about a wayward clock, Amusan’s stride is unchallengeable. Here in Nigeria, she will go on record as the best athlete ever in our history. This does not diminish the exploits of Nigerians in the past like Mary Onyali, Divine Oduduru, Chioma Ajunwa, Emmanuel Ifeajuna. Or group accomplishments like the 1996 Olympic goal by our soccer team.
Amusan ranks not in the pantheon of a nation, or a continent, but in the world.
“Honestly, I believe in my abilities but I was not expecting a world record at these championships,” Amusan said after her final victory. “The goal is always just to execute well and get the win. So the world record is a bonus. I knew I had it in me but I could not believe it when I saw it on the screen after the semis,” she said of her achievement.
Even commentaries about her shoes did little to play down glory. Western reports drew attention to her Adidas Adizero shoes. But it was her audacity to test a shoe that long distance runners prefer because of pain in her toes. But the rules support her and she was within her rights.
We must congratulate those who saw her spark, especially in her humble beginnings in Warri as top sports officials have confessed. She moved to glory after glory. Her resume is stunning. She had silver medal at the African Youth Championships in Warri in 2013. In 2015, she gulped the African Junior Athletics Championships in Addis Ababa. Also in that year, she snapped up gold in her debut All Africa Games. She moved over to the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) in the U.S., where she set records, including a 33-year-old monument by Kim Turner. She has not played Lot’s wife ever since. She has looked forward.
In 2018, she won the race at the Commonwealth Games, also at the African Championships. She has grabbed the it at the African Games for the second time. In 2021, she won the Diamond League Trophy in Zurich, Switzerland, breaking the African record set by our own Glory Alozie.
We must also commend the exploits of Ese Brume, he beat her former Bronze record title to shine with silver. She supported Amusan to bring the Nigerian name to the elite of the world. It is such feats that make our country see light in spite of an athletic atmosphere where we lack enough incentives and facilities for the best to thrive.