Deji Ogeyingbo is covering the world champs for RunBlogRun with a wonderful series of previews. Today, he has written on the fine Nigerian hurdler, Tobi Amusan, who is the champion of the African continent. Deji asked some tough questions, but what would one expect, with one of the toughest events in all of track & field, the women’s 100m hurdles?
Tobi Amusan: From Port Louis to Paris- laid-back style has captivated Africa and Europe…but can she replicate it at the World Championships in Eugene?
When Tobi Amusan cantered through to yet another title in the women’s 100m Hurdles at the African Championships in Mauritius, she raised her index finger as she crossed the finish line with no one in sight indicating she was still number one on the continent.
That fact has never been in doubt for the last four years, to say the least considering how Amusan remains the only African sprint-hurdler to rub shoulders with the very best in the world in her discipline.
Asides from being the double African Champion, Amusan is also the defending Commonwealth Games Champion. But these titles pale in comparison to what she wants to achieve. To be number 1 in the world.
And in a sport like track and field, winning the world or Olympic title can guarantee that perception and accolade, not just a combination of good performances that takes you to the top of the world rankings in your discipline.
So, when Amusan hardly broke a sweat to win at the Paris Diamond league there was the feeling that she is almost arriving at her destination. Her winning time of 12.41s ensured that she lowered her Personal Best and African Record which she set last year in Zurich when claiming the Diamond Trophy by 0.01s.
The naysayers might say the field wasn’t as stacked up with some of the best sprint-hurdlers in the world, with Bahamas’ Charlton Devynne the second fastest at the finish line with a seasons-best of 12.63. Reality says you can only race what is put in front of you, and Amusan does that very well.
The win in Paris itself brought out her usual smile which she exhumes after such wins, but beneath there’s still that anticipation of a bigger challenge ahead, one which she knows conquering will elevate her to the top echelons of global sprinting.
“I take each race at a time, I let God do his thing. Mine is to be healthy, trust myself and my coach, trust God and everything will fall in place.” Amusan said after winning at the African Championships in Mauritius.
Two narrow misses in the last three years still hunt Amusan, even if she doesn’t like to acknowledge it. Her fourth-place finish at the World Championships in Doha in 2019 and a similar finish at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
Redemption is the main course when the World Championships gets underway in Eugune this week and nobody but Amusan knows how vital it is to get on that podium. But there will be obstacles both on the track and off it.
Some of her major contenders have handed her defeat this season and they too will be favorites for the crown at worlds. Amusan’s nemesis right from college, Jasmine Camacho-Quinn is the undisputed number one for the last one year.
The Puerto Rican is the Olympic Champion and world leader (12.37) this year. Since their first meeting at the NCAA Div. 1 championships in 2016, they have raced 11 times with Amusan coming tops in four of them. Their latest meeting at the Stockholm Diamond.
The world record holder, Kendra Harrison is yet another hurdle she would have to cross. The American has always had the better of Amusan (15-1), bar the last time they crossed paths in Eugene where Harrison placed 8th in the final.
Harrison’s USA teammate and reigning world champion, Nia Ali looked strong winning her semi-final in Eugene but she did not contest the US trials final as she has a bye into the championships. Alaysha Johnson narrowly missed out on the US title clocking 12.35s for second and will be a big dark horse for the title.
Then, there is the Jamaican trio of Megan Tapper, Britney Anderson, and Danielle Williams, all whom are championships athletes. But in all of this, Amusan is still pretty confident about her chances in Eugene, while her numbers this season have been startling.