Reigning Nigeria 400m hurdles record holder, Ezekiel Nathaniel has qualified for the semifinal of the event after running 49.64 seconds to place third in the first of five first round heats on Saturday, day two of the ongoing 18th World Athletics Championships in Oregon, USA.
The 19 year old Nigerian who broke Henry Amike’s 35 year old Nigerian 400m hurdles record was one of the favourites to make the semis following his impressive performances in the American collegiate circuit culminating in the 48.42 seconds he ran in Lubbock, Texas last May and he fulfilled expectations.
Nathaniel has now become the fourth Nigerian man after Daniel Ogidi (1983), Amike (1987) and Rilwan Alowonle (2019) to qualify for the semifinal of the 400m hurdles in the history of the championships.
The Baylor University freshman will now be looking forward to the semis where he will hope to run faster than the 49.64 seconds he ran in the heat to secure a place in the final.
If he qualifies for the final, he will be joining Amike as only the second Nigerian to make the final of the event.
A podium appearance will make him the fifth African after Zambia’s Samuel Matete who won gold in 1991 and silver in 1993 and 1995 as well as the South African duo of Llewellyn Herbert (silver in 2017) and L. J. van Zyl (bronze in 2011) and Kenya’s Nicholas Bett who was crowned world champion in 2015 in Beijing, China.
Amike qualified for the final in 1987 and placed fifth with his 48.63 seconds performance. He had earlier ran 48.50 seconds in the semis to set a Nigerian record that stood for 35 long years.