A few days before the hammer thrower from Ohio was scheduled to compete and represent Nigeria at the Tokyo Olympics, she was informed she couldn’t Over a federation error concerning drug testing. On her 25th birthday.

No chance to walk at opening ceremonies, either (her team uniform didn’t arrive in time). The only memory was a pretend practice throw inside the Olympic hammer ring.

It all led her to this: Switching countries, an arduous task with her application finally coming through at the last minute before U.S. nationals. She earned a spot at the world championships, where she’ll wear the red, white and blue.

Which is why she celebrated an All-American way when she qualified: A juicy burger and fries at a fast-food restaurant (no milkshake, though, she’s dairy-free).

“It honestly feels very redemptive,” Echikunwoke said of making Team USA as she competes for her new team Friday in the preliminaries of the hammer throw at world championships. “I’m just so grateful.”

Echikunwoke (pronounced: eh-CHI-koo-wokay) grew up in Pickerington, Ohio, the oldest of four kids. Her dad, Godwin, works for the state government as an auditor. Her mom, Christiana, is a nurse. Both are from Nigeria.

Family pride. That’s why the standout thrower from the University of Cincinnati decided to wear the green-and-white of Nigeria last summer in Tokyo. She earned a spot by winning her country’s trials.

First, a rumbling that something might be amiss as the Nigerian team trained outside the city a few day before the Summer Games. Paperwork problems with drug testing leading into the Olympics, they were hearing. Still needed to be sorted out.

“I was like, ‘No way this is happening,’” Echikunwoke said.

As an NCAA athlete, she said she wasn’t drug tested that frequently, just when she won at the national indoor championships in 2017. But with others in a similar situation, she reasoned it would all be sorted out.

“Not once” she said, when asked if something felt amiss. “That’s the crazy part: I feel like I usually have a premonition if something is off.”

That’s why the ultimate decision blindsided her: She was disqualified by the Athletics Integrity Unit, which oversees the anti-doping effort in track and field. There were 20 athletes, including 10 from Nigeria, who weren’t allowed to participate in track and field at the Olympics because they did not meet anti-doping testing requirements in the lead-up to the Games.

The AIU requires athletes from countries categorized as “high risk” because of deficiencies in their testing programs to be given three no-notice, out-of-competition tests in the 10 months leading to a major event.

Echikunwoke explained that the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) didn’t set up the proper testing for its athletes. She said, in an Instagram post, they “left us in the dark about this whole drug testing issue until the last minute where we were left helpless.”

Over a federation error concerning drug testing. On her 25th birthday.

“Beyond heartbreaking,” Annette Echikunwoke said.

No chance to walk at opening ceremonies, either (her team uniform didn’t arrive in time). The only memory was a pretend practice throw inside the Olympic hammer ring.

It all led her to this: Switching countries, an arduous task with her application finally coming through at the last minute before U.S. nationals. She earned a spot at the world championships, where she’ll wear the red, white and blue.

Which is why she celebrated an All-American way when she qualified: A juicy burger and fries at a fast-food restaurant (no milkshake, though, she’s dairy-free).

“It honestly feels very redemptive,” Echikunwoke said of making Team USA as she competes for her new team Friday in the preliminaries of the hammer throw at world championships. “I’m just so grateful.”

Echikunwoke (pronounced: eh-CHI-koo-wokay) grew up in Pickerington, Ohio, the oldest of four kids. Her dad, Godwin, works for the state government as an auditor. Her mom, Christiana, is a nurse. Both are from Nigeria.

First, a rumbling that something might be amiss as the Nigerian team trained outside the city a few day before the Summer Games. Paperwork problems with drug testing leading into the Olympics, they were hearing. Still needed to be sorted out.

“I was like, ‘No way this is happening,’” Echikunwoke said.

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As an NCAA athlete, she said she wasn’t drug tested that frequently, just when she won at the national indoor championships in 2017. But with others in a similar situation, she reasoned it would all be sorted out.

“Not once” she said, when asked if something felt amiss. “That’s the crazy part: I feel like I usually have a premonition if something is off.”

That’s why the ultimate decision blindsided her: She was disqualified by the Athletics Integrity Unit, which oversees the anti-doping effort in track and field. There were 20 athletes, including 10 from Nigeria, who weren’t allowed to participate in track and field at the Olympics because they did not meet anti-doping testing requirements in the lead-up to the Games.

The AIU requires athletes from countries categorized as “high risk” because of deficiencies in their testing programs to be given three no-notice, out-of-competition tests in the 10 months leading to a major event.

Echikunwoke explained that the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) didn’t set up the proper testing for its athletes. She said, in an Instagram post, they “left us in the dark about this whole drug testing issue until the last minute where we were left helpless.”

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