This is Deji’s Doodles. Deji sent it early, but I wanted to keep it on for Friday, so you, our readers, could get used to seeing this fun column. Deji Ogeyingbo has his ears and eyes on the sport daily and writes two columns a week for us.
Enjoy this column and the great track & field that you will see this weekend.
Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce will battle Christine Mboma this weekend in Nairobi, Kenya.
Knighton and Tebogo’s junior record-breaking performances, Mboma announcing herself this season and Mo Farah losing at the Vitality London 10k road race
This weekend in athletics had it all: Erriyon Knighton displayed performances on the track that belies his age as he stormed to a World Junior Record in the 200m, Letsile Tebogo of Botswana breaking the World Junior 100m record in Gaborone to put him in contention ahead of the African Champs in June and plenty of entertainment from collegiate athletes at the LSU invitational.
Erriyon Knighton is on the path to greatness
19.49s. That was the time that popped up on the screen when US teenager Erriyon Knighton stormed to victory in the 200m at the LSU Invitational in Baton Rouge last weekend. It felt strange considering no sprinter had dipped inside 19.5 since the 2012 Olympics, and even one of the best 200m runners since that period, Noah Lyles has only been able to run 19.50 about three years ago.
Erriyon Knighton, 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials, photo by Kevin Morris / @kevmofoto
How did Knighton come up with such a time was the question on everyone’s lips? 18 years Old and is sprinting so incredibly fast. That’s the thing about unique talents. They don’t go by the playbook. Ask the great Usain Bolt whose junior records were taken down by this same Knighton over the half-lap last year.
Bolt broke 19.5 seconds on four occasions, the 2008 and 2012 Olympic finals and the 2009 and 2011 World Championships finals. His best time before turning 20 was 19.93. He didn’t break 19.5 until he was almost 22.
Knighton, who started running competitively in 2019 didn’t break the 20s until he was 17, a period in which he got to the final of the Tokyo Olympics in which he finished fourth. It was just the manner in which he executed his races that made everyone stand up. While his peers were still ruining in Junior competitions, the Florida native was rubbing shoulders with the best of Olympians.
In fact, Knighton beat Lyles in the semis of the US Olympics trials last year, and his nonchalant nature of breezing off into the tunnel gave onlookers goosebumps. What was next seemed open to interpretation. And almost a year later, he churned out this breathtaking performance that belies his age and catapulted him to the fourth fastest man of all time behind Bolt, Yohan Blake and Michael Johnson.
So, the comparison has begun with the great Bolt. Understandably because for someone this precocious, it just seems a matter of time before he takes down the Jamaican’s World Record of 19.19s. After just four individual races this season (three in the 100m and one in the 200m), Knighton poised to shock the world this year, or even later in his career? Last Saturday’s performance is surely a pointer to what to expect.
Letsile Tebogo just threw the cats amongst the pigeons in the men’s 100m ahead of the African Champs
Letsile Tebogo, WA U20, photo by Dan Vernon for World Athletics
From the sublime to the ridiculous. While Knighton was breaking ground in Louisiana, the World Junior Champion over the 100m Letsile Tebogo was making history in his hometown Botswana. The 18-year-Old clocked a new World Junior record of 9.96s to break the previous record of Trayvon Bromell by 0.01s.
What’s crazy about the performance was the way he obliterated his opponents while easing off towards the finish line. Surely, he must have lost a few hundredths of a second by just doing that, a scenario that was reminiscent of Usain Bolt’s winning race at the 2008 Olympics.
This throws up a tantalizing prospect for the men’s 100m ahead of the African Championships in Mauritius in June. At the moment, four Africans are currently topping the 100m charts times this season. Ghana’s Benjamin Azamanti (9.90), his compatriot, Joseph Amoah (9.94), Tebogo and Ferdinand Omanyala (9.98).
This certainly will change in the coming days as some of the World’s top sprinters are yet to take to the track, but at the moment, you can’t look beyond what African sprinters are doing. Add the defending champion over the 100m in Africa, Akani Simbine, and we’ve got a thrill ahead of the Champs.
The Nigerian youngsters like Favour Ashe, Enoch Adegoke, Alaba Akintola and Raymond Ekewvo (African Games Champion) will also add flavour to what is potentially going to be a race for the ages.
The beginning of the end for Mo Farah
Mo Farah, Ellis Cross, Aadan Mohammed, Vitality 10k, photo by Vitality10000
There was once a time that Sir Mo Farah was unstoppable over the 5k and 10k on the track. Every race against him saw his opponents come up with plans to usurp his dominance. That period seems to be long gone as his return to competitive action ended with a humbling defeat by club runner Ellis Cross at the Vitality London 10,000.
Nine months after his last race, Farah could only manage a 28:44 clocking as he placed second. It looks like a decent haul for any runner but not Farah, who has multiple World and Olympic titles to his name.
To make things worse, he got beat by Ellis Cross, a runner who was not even part of the official elite field and wore a bib with the number 219 on it rather than his name, finished two seconds ahead of Farah.
His attempt to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics hit a brick wall last year and Farah has always made known his intention of wanting to compete for one more time for his country at a major champ. There are the World Championships, Commonwealth Games and European Championships to look forward to, although his latest defeat will bring doubts about whether or not he can even qualify for that standard of the event anymore.
Ofili and Ashe continue to break new grounds in the US
Favour Ashe and Favour Ofili share the same first name. They both have a lot in common than that. Apart from them being Nigerians, they’ve got some very fast legs. This season has been a heck of a breakout one for both sprinters who are both seen as the future of Nigerian athletics.
Favour Ashe, courtesy of Tennessee Track & Field
Ashe joined Tennessee less than six months ago and is already producing numbers over the short sprints that should ordinarily take him at least a year. After ending the indoor season with a 6.51s clocking, over the weekend at the LSU Invitational, he became the fastest Nigerian over 100m in all conditions when he blitzed to a time of 9.79s (+3.0) to take the win.
Similarly, Ofili who has been in the NCAA circuit for over a year now and recently broke the Nigerian record over the 200m, the World Junior Bronze medalist hit another milestone last weekend when she defeated more established sprinters to set a new Personal Best over the 100m, clocking 10.93s.
Favour Ofili, photo courtesy of LSU Track & Field
The season is gradually taking shape and with a huge summer of championships still the come, it is worth noting that these two athletes have got the potential to give us top-class sprinting come to the end of the season.
There is no stopping Christine Mboma…
Last season saw the emergence of Namibia’s Christine Mboma into the track world, and boy did she make us smile with some breathtaking performances. From winning Silver at the Tokyo Olympics to snatching the Diamond trophy of Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson in the 200m, it was only a matter of time before she gains her ground over the 100m.
Mboma who only started running the 100m this year has dipped inside 10s twice already in all conditions. However, the one that was rather more impressive was her latest showing in Gaborone in which she became the first U20 athlete to break 22 seconds for 200m and 11 seconds for 100m on the same day.
She clocked a National Record of 10.97 over the 100m, and a world-leading 21.87 over the 200m. At this rate, only Elaine Thompson-Herah is capable of stopping her over the 200m and with her meteoric rise over the 100m this year, you certainly can’t bet against her medaling at the World champs over the 100m.
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