NIGERIA’S quartet, comprising Blessing Okagbare, Regina George, Dominique Duncan, and Christy Udoh yesterday stunned the Thomas Robinson Stadium in Nassau, Bahamas, when they beat a packed track, including favourites, the United States (U.S.), to win the 4×200 metres gold medal.
According to the IAAF, although there were world records and shock defeats in other events, the women’s 4x200m was the most dramatic final yesterday, the first day of the World Relays, with pre-event favourites, U.S., seemingly on course to defend their title when Shalonda Solomon, Kimberlyn Duncan and Jeneba Tarmoh built up a comfortable lead on the first three legs.
But then disaster struck on the final change over between Tarmoh and Allyson Felix. With the Olympic 200m champion struggling to get a solid grip on the baton, Tarmoh bumped into her sending her to the ground, their medal hopes dashed.
The host nation’s faulty change over also played in favour of Nigeria as they were disqualified even though when they finished the race in second position.
The Nigerian girls won the race in 1:30.52 to take two seconds off the national record they set earlier this year.
World bronze medallist, Blessing Okagbare, led the team off before the baton was passed to Regina George, Dominique Duncan and Christy Udoh.
Jamaica finished a distant second in 1:31.73, one-and-a-half seconds slower than their time from last year, but one place higher on the podium.
Germany were third in 1:33.61 while China set an Asian record of 1:34.89 in fourth.
Nigeria failed to make any impact in the other races with the women and men’s 4×400 teams unable to go past the heats.
Nigeria finished fourth over all women, while the men placed seventh.
Nigeria did not enter for the 4×800 metres relay, while the men’s 4x100m did not show up for the heats.
The U.S. quartet of Mike Rodgers, Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey did what so many of their predecessors have failed to do in the 4x100m in recent years, get the baton round cleanly, and that allowed them the opportunity to inflict a morale-boosting defeat on the favoured Jamaicans, the Americans winning in 37:38.
It was the equal-seventh fastest performance in history and a time only other U.S. and Jamaican teams have ever beaten.
Jamaica was left trailing in the wake of the U.S. runners from midway down the back straight and the 2014 World Relays winners were left to settle for second on this occasion in 37.68, also inside the previous competition record.
Almost unnoticed, Japan showed off their slick baton passing skills, after being given a great start by their lead-off runner Kazuma Oseto, and came through for a slightly unexpected bronze medal in 38.20.
However, all eight finalists went away with a prize from Nassau, automatic qualification for this event to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Shortly before going to press, Nigeria qualified for the finals of the men’s 4×200 metres and the women’s 4×100 metres races.