Nigerian sprinter advances after appealing disqualification

National Sports

Divine Oduduro, of Nigeria, Rodney Rowe, of the United States, Adam Gemili, of Great Britain, and Taymir Burnet, of the Netherlands,, from left to right, compete in the men’s 200 meter heats during the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Talk about your sleepless nights.

When Nigerian sprinter Divine Oduduru finally did fall asleep in the wee hours of Sunday morning, he still had no idea whether he’d be running at the world championships or kicked out of the meet.

Because of a mix-up by their nation’s track federation, Oduduru and teammate Blessing Okagbare were each disqualified after they didn’t show up for the 100-meter races that they never intended to run. Only after an appeal and a long wait did they find out they were back in.

Oduduru ended up qualifying for the semifinals of the 200 meters. Okagbare will run Monday.

“It’s tough, but for you to be a great athlete, you have to have a great attitude,” Oduduru said.

The problems stemmed from a rule that states that if athletes don’t show up for races, they’re disqualified from the rest of the meet.

Oduduru and Okagbare had told their federation they weren’t running in the 100, but the federation put their names on the entry form anyway. They had to appeal the decision, and not until 2 p.m. Sunday — about five hours before race time — did Oduduru actually know he was in.

Oduduru is the NCAA champion for Texas Tech at both 100 and 200 meters. He wanted it clear that neither he nor Okagbare had anything to do with this mix-up.

“I think they should take more responsibility, take the time to do the things they need to do to get things right,” Oduduru said. “So people won’t go around thinking the athletes are the problem.”

BAHAMAS ON HIS MIND

His mind was on the race. His thoughts are far away.

Bahamas sprinter Terrance Jones was thinking of those affected Hurricane Dorian when he raced in the opening round of the 200 meters. He didn’t advance after being disqualified for apparently stepping outside his lane.

Jones said his family’s home was flooded from the hurricane that struck in early September. But they were safe as they moved inland to Freeport. He doesn’t remember the hurricane really even passing through.

“I slept through it, almost the whole thing,” Jones said. “As I went outside, I looked at how (everyone) was impacted, and it really touched my heart. I didn’t know what to say.”

Shaunae Miller-Uibo, the Olympic 400-meter champion who represents the Bahamas, announced on her Instagram page after the storm that she was pledging to contribute $25,000 to help rebuild two churches in the country.

HELPING A FRIEND

In the semifinal of the 100, English Gardner pulled up halfway through the race, grabbed the back of her right hamstring and fell to the track. She slapped the surface with her left hand in pain and then pounded it with both fists in frustration.

Soon after, American teammate Morolake Akinosun went back to help her. So did Dina Asher-Smith of Britain as Gardner was taken off in a wheelchair.

Akinosun and Gardner struck up a friendship through years of competing against each other in college and it only deepened when they helped the 4×100 women’s relay to a gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“She’s my friend,” Akinosun said. “I have to help.”

RECORD TALK

Noah Lyles has the world’s top 200-meter time this season at 19.50 seconds. He’s thinking bigger — Usain Bolt’s all-time mark. Bolt ran 19.19 at the 2009 world championships in Berlin.

“I mentioned I would be going after anything and everything,” said Lyles, who colored his hair silver for the opening round of the 200 on Sunday. “Of course, the gold is first. Whatever time pops up, just be ready. I feel like I’m in some pretty good shape.”

TV COVERAGE

The world championships have not avoided being touched by the bitter Persian Gulf crisis. The regional broadcast rights to the Doha-hosted event are held by Abu Dhabi, which is part of the United Arab Emirates, which is boycotting Qatar economically and diplomatically.

The Qatari-owned Gulf Times English language newspaper ran a front-page story complaining about Abu Dhabi Sports Channel, suggesting they were not showing some of the IAAF event. The IAAF organizers have not commented on any broadcasting spat but they did pull off a late deal to ensure a Qatari-based broadcaster could show the track and field action.

The IAAF said it was “delighted that a solution was found” that allowed Al Kass Extra One to show the 10 days of competition.

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AP National Writer Eddie Pells and AP Sports Writer Rob Harris contributed to this report.

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