By Dare Esan:
Nigeria’s double sprints record holder Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor is chasing a first ever win at the (44th) Prefontaine Classic, a member of the IAAF Diamond League of elite international track & field meets, which holds at the historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon in the United States of America this weekend, Completesportsnigeria.com reports.
The African 200m record holder will be making her ninth consecutive appearance at the meeting following her debut eight years ago (2010) when she ran 11.03 seconds to place fourth in the 100m.
On Saturday, the Nigerian will be aiming to out-run a loaded field of Olympic and World champions in the blue ribband event and will hope to run a little faster than the 10.90 seconds she ran in Doha penultimate week to come second in the event at the opening leg of the 14-leg meetings.
Interestingly Okagbare-Ighoteguonor will line-up against many of the world stars she out-ran in Doha and the only lady that she futiley chased to the line, Cote d’Ivoire’s double sprints medallist in London last year at the IAAF Worlds Marie-Josee Ta Lou.
Ta Lou ran a new 10.85 seconds personal best to win in Doha and looks set to be between the Nigerian and a first ever victory in Eugene.
That will happen if reigning double Olympics champion,Elaine Thompson of Jamaica fails to re-discover the form that gave her 100m and 200m gold in Rio two years ago.Thompson was third (10.93 seconds) behind Okagbare-Ighoteguonor in Doha.
Also likely to pose a problem for the Nigerian is another Ivorian,Murielle Ahoure who placed fourth (10.96 seconds) in Doha. Ahoure, it would be recalled, dethroned the Nigerian as African 100m record holder when she ran 10.78 seconds in Montverde, Florida, USA in June 2016, one hundreth of a second faster than the 10.79 seconds Okagbare-Ighoteguonor ran in July 2013 in London.
Flying Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers will also be lurking,hoping to race back to reckoning after placing sixth (11.03 seconds) in Doha as well as home girl,Tori Bowie who is yet to run inside 11 seconds this season.
Only quartet of Ta Lou,Okagbare-Ighoteguonor,Thompson and Ahoure out of the eight athletes that will file out this weekend for the $10,000 top prize and points (eight for first) on offer have broken 11 seconds this season.
Okagbare-Ighoteguonor will not only be banking on her return to fun so early in the season, she will also be motivated by the fact that the Hayward Field has proved to be a veritable ground for her in terms of times.
She clocked a wind-aided 10.75 seconds in the 100m on the Hayward Field track to come second behind Jamaica’s Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce (10.71 seconds) in 2013 and a legal 10.87 seconds to place fourth in the same event in 2015.In the half lap, the Nigerian ran 22.23 seconds to place second behind USA’s Tori Bowie in 2014.It was then a personal best until last March when she ran 22.04 to set a new personal best and African record.