—Equals Ojokolo's seventh title haul at the championships
Nigeria's undisputed queen of the track Blessing Okagbare on Thursday raced into her 7th All Nigeria 100m title as she won the women’s blue ribband event as the All Nigeria Open Track and Field Championships got to a colour start in Sapele, Delta State.
Okagbare who was conspicuously missing during the 2015 All-Nigeria Championships in Warri thereby failing to become the first
Nigerian sprinter to win the 100m title seven times consecutively was the overwhelming favourite to reclaim her title and she did in record-shattering fashion as she raced into an 11.02 seconds championships record to erase into oblivion the 11.06 best she first set in 2010.
The feat, a personal season's best, has shot her to number 16 in the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) top list of performers for the on-going outdoor season. She is also the second woman with Endurance Ojokolo to win as many as seven 100m titles, four short of the 11 won by former Nigeria and Africa queen of the track Mary Onyali.
“I am focused on myself, I am not thinking of what others are doing,” Okagbare stated when asked about her preparedness to fight for a podium apperance at the Rio Olympics next month.
Peace Ukoh upset the apple cart by coming second in 11.37 seconds ahead of defending champion Gloria Asumnu who finished third in 11.38 seconds.
The day did not belong to Okagbare alone as former American star Antwon Hicks set a new national record (subject to ratification by the AFN) in the 110m Men's Hurdles event.
Hicks' winning time of 13.27 seconds erases the previous 13.42 seconds record set in 2003 by Williams Erese.
The winning time also qualified the 2002 IAAF/Coca Cola World Junior Championships champion for the Rio Olympics where he will be donning the colours of Nigeria for the first time after switching allegiance.
Speaking with journalists after his race, Hicks said he felt very relieved to now have the Olympic standard after a couple of unsuccessful attempts.
“All year, I have been beating it (the standard) but it didn’t count because the results have been windy, this was one of my last races to get it done and I am happy I have done just that and also set a new national record. I am pretty sure this time will be among the top 20 times in the world at the moment," he said.
In some of the other events decided on Thursday, Deborah Pam won the 5,000m in 17.23.50 seconds while Olumidi Aderonke (17.38.06) and Nuhu Elizabeth (17.44.20) came second and third respectively.
In the men’s version, Emmanuel Gyang won in 14.52.75 seconds while the duo of Stephen Joshua and Solomon Yilbam came second and third respectively.
In the Women’s Discuss, Nwanneka Okwelogu finished tops with her throw of 52.93m
In the women’s 800m final, Ihekandu Philomena was first in 2.06.98seconds while Lagos athlete Alabi Aminat was second (2.10.66) and Linda Friday third (2.11.05).
Hamadjan Soudi claimed the top spot in the men’s 800m race; finishing in 1.49.80 seconds.
As widely expected, favourites for the 400m women’s event, George Patience Okon and Regina George won their heats and will be going head-on in Friday’s final.
A keen contest is expected in men's 100m on Friday where Divine Oduduru and Egwero Ogho-Oghene, who both ran 10.23 seconds in the semi-final, are favoured to fight for the title with defending champion Seye Ogunlewe who ran 10.25 seconds in his semi-final heat.
The final of the women's 400m will also hold on Friday, the last day of the championships with defending champion Patience Okon-George and Regina George looking to be the contenders for the title.
The 2016 All-Nigeria Championships is serving as trial to selectg Team Nigeria's team to next month's Olympic Games in Rio De Janiero, Brazil.