By Dare Esan:
Commonwealth double sprint champion, Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor, wants to become the first Nigerian nay African sprinter to break 10.70 seconds in the 100m.
The Beijing Olympics long jump bronze medallist also wants to leap beyond Chioma Ajunwa’s 7.12m African and Nigerian record.
Okagbare, 26, holds the African 100m record at 10.79 seconds set on July 27, 2013 in London. She is however second behind Ajunwa in the African all-time list in the long jump with 7.00m (achieved also in 2013 at the Monaco IAAF Diamond League meeting) and third in the Nigerian and African 200m all-time list with 22.23 seconds behind Mary Onyali who holds the African record at 22.07 seconds and Falilat Ogunkoya who has a personal best of 22.22 seconds.
In her profile presented by her kits and shoe sponsors, NIKE, Okagbare said she is not satisfied with being the first African woman to break 10.80 seconds in the blue riband event and wants to go a step faster.
‘“I’d like to break 10.7 seconds for the 100m and I want to jump further than 7.3 meters in the long jump. I have goals written up and posted around my room. I write them as soon as I wake, when I’m feeling fresh,” the athlete said in the profile.
Okagbare, currently the 14th fastest woman in the world in the all-time list, will jump into fourth position on the list if she actualises her dream behind the USA trio of Florence Griffith-Joyner (Flo Jo), the world record holder at 10.49 seconds; her former training partner Carmelita Jeter (10.64 seconds) and Marion Jones who ran an altitude-aided 10.65 seconds to win the 100m gold medal at the IAAF World Cup in Athletics in 1998.
In the long jump, Okagbare is not thinking only about out-leaping Ajunwa’s African record, she wants to jump as far as 7.30m and make history as the first African to jump beyond 7.20 metres.
She also wants to run faster than both Onyali and Ogunkoya in the half lap race by becoming also the first African to break 22 seconds in the event. Only 23 women have ducked inside 22 seconds in the event and Okagbare believes she could be the 24th woman to achieve the mark.
In the profile, Okagbare also gave an insight into her training method.
“I start at 6 a.m. every morning in the gym before I run; you get muscles from explosive training. The power of my runs comes from doing weight training and the speed comes from track running.”
She also relies on an intense inward focus. Blocking out the competition, Okagbare registers only her own performance, despite training alongside many of the world’s top runners.
“Training with competitors does not get to me because I focus on myself. During the race, I don’t even notice if my training partner is in the race, but I don’t underestimate anyone. As long as you are on the starting line, you are a competitor.”
All eyes will be on the Sapele-born athlete later this month in Beijing, China where she hopes to become the first Nigerian woman to win a world title in the senior category.
Two years ago, she ended Nigeria’s 14-year wait for a medal at the flagship event of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in Moscow where she won two individual medals viz silver in the long jump and bronze in the 200m thereby making history as the first Nigerian to win two individual medals at the championships.
Petite sprint hurdler Gloria Alozie holds the record of the first Nigerian woman to win an individual medal at the championship following her silver-winning feat in the 100m hurdles in Seville, Spain in 1999.