By Dare Esan:
Class, they say, is permanent and that was exactly what Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor proved once again as she leapt into the final of the long jump event at the on-going IAAF World Championships in London.
The silver medallist in the event from the 14th edition of the championships in Moscow, Russia four years ago ensured qualification for Friday evening's final with her 6.51m second round leap after opening with 6.21m in the first round.The mark ensured she finished eighth in the overall classification.
The Nigerian's 6.51m mark is the lowest qualifying mark by a Nigerian in the history of the championships,falling behind the 6.68m Christy Opara-Thompson jumped to qualify for the final of the event in 1991 in Tokyo, Japan.
Police woman Chioma Ajunwa holds the best qualfying mark by a Nigerian with her 7.01m mark in Athens, Greece in 1997. It is also the second longest qualifying mark by a woman in the history of the championships after Fiona May's 7.04m leap in 1999.
Okagbare will now fancy her chances of winning her third global medal in the event after winning a pair of silver first in 2008 at the Olympics in Beijing where she first won a fortuitous bronze medal (6.91m) which was later elevated to silver following the disqualification of Russia's Tatyana Lebedeva for positive dope test.
She also won a silver medal in Moscow in 2013, jumping 6.99m, two centimetres behind multiple world champions, Britney Reese of the USA, who picked her third consecutive gold medal in the event.
Okagbare will however still battle familiar foes for a place on the podium come Friday as three-time world champion Reese, reigning world and Olympic champion Tatiana Bartoleta of the USA, Darya Klishna of Russia competing as a neutral, Lorraine Ugen of Britain and Ivana Spanovic of Serbia all came through the qualification test for places in the final as none of the 12 qualifiers hit the 6.70m qualification mark under the atrocious condition at the Olympic Stadium in London.
Meanwhile, Okagbare's compatriot Ese Brume failed to overcome her sloppy pre-championships form as she crashed out of the competition. The Nigerian's 6.38m third and final round leap was not enough as she finished 17th in the overall classification.