Seven Nigerian athletes end 2023 indoor season as Africa’s fastest and best

The 2023 world indoor season ended with the NCAA indoor championships in Albuqureque, New Mexico last weekend with Nigerian athletes putting up impressive performances.

Favour Ofili’s incredible 22.11 run in the 200m event headlined the many lifetime bests recorded by over 10 Nigerian athletes during the season which kicked off in January and ended this month (March).

Interestingly, seven of the incredible performances by Nigerian track and field stars will go down in history as the fastest time or mark recorded by African athletes in the 2023 indoor season.

Who are the seven athletes that ended the season as African leaders?

Favour Ofili (200m):
Reigning African 200m indoor record holder, Ofili came to the 2023 indoor season as the fastest and the best the continent as ever produced after running 22.46 last year to become the first Nigerian and second African after Murielle Ahoure of the Ivory Coast to run inside 23 seconds over the distance.

The Nigerian began the indoor season on that note and proved her incredible performances of the previous two years were not by happenstances. The 20 year old raised the bar higher by setting a new 22.11 African record.

Ofili ended the season with the five fastest times over the half lap event by an African woman.

Imaobong Nse Uko (400m)
Nse Uko finally gave a hint of developing into the great 400m runner many predicted two years earlier when she won the quartermile title at the World U20 championships in Nairobi, Kenya.

The 18 year old ran a new lifetime best over the distance indoors in Lubbock, Texas last month. Her 52.19 run is the fastest by an African this year.

Another Nigerian, Ella Onojuvwevwo is the third fastest (52.61) behind Latifa Ali of Ghana (52.60).

Ruth Usoro (Long Jump):
Not many expected Ruth will come up with the huge 6.87m leap at the long jump pit in January in Lubbock but the former NCAA indoor champion in the triple jump didn’t doubt her capability as she soared high and landed with the biggest jump by a Nigerian nay African woman in 13 years.

Her huge leap ties for second with Blessing Okagbare in the African all-time list and just 10cm behind Chioma Ajunwa’s African record.

Favour Ashe (60m):
Ashe may not have realized his dream of breaking 6.50 in the 60m and winning his first NCAA indoor title over the distance after winning a bronze medal in his debut season (2022), the 21 year old still ended the season as Africa’s fastest for the second straight year.

Ashe ran 6.52, the fastest time by an African this year to qualify as the fastest athlete for the NCAA indoor final where he failed to start for undisclosed reason(s).

He did the same thing last year when his 6.51 was unrivalled by any sprinter on the continent.

Udodi Onwuzurike (200m):
When Onwuzurike stormed into the Nigerian track and field scene in 2021 with the impressive way he won the World U20 title in Nairobi, Kenya in 2021, many predicted he would be the next big thing in Nigerian athletics.

Since then, the 20 year old came up with huge lifetime best in the 100m (10.03) and 200m (20.08) outdoors in 2022. This year, he raced thrice into new personal best in the 200m indoors. He first broke his 20.90 PB early February when he ran 20.61 in Boston.

He improved to 20.56 22 days later, also in Boston before the geometric improvement at the NCAA indoor championships last weekend in New Mexico.

There he ran 20.17 to qualify for the 200m final. That time remains the joint fastest ran by an African this year.

Ezekiel Nathaniel (400m):
Perhaps the biggest surprise from the Nigerian perspective, Nathaniel ventured into the 400m flat indoors for the first time in his career and ended up not only setting personal bests race after race, he also ended the season as the third fastest man (45.69) in the Nigerian all-time list behind Sunday Bada (45.51) and Kunle Fasasi (45.57).

The 20 year old has also ended his first indoor campaign as the fastest African not only in 2023 indoors but since 2019 when South Africa’s Derrick Mokaleng ran 45.67 in Lubbock, Texas.

Chukwuebuka Enekwechi (Shot Put):
Reigning African Shot Put king, Enekwechi extended his dominance of the event indoors in 2023 with his 21.20 Nigeria-record setting effort in January in Iowa.

It was the first 21m throw in Africa in three years. The last 21+ throw by an African in the event indoors prior to this year was 21.04m achieved by Enekwechi himself in Poland in 2020.

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