By Dare Esan:
Former Commonwealth Games double sprints champion Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor has been listed to make a return on Thursday to the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland after missing out of the seventh leg of the one-day event, the Meeting Du Paris last Saturday.
The reigning Nigeria 100m and 200m record holder had been marked doubtful for the Athletissima in Lausanne following the clash in date between the meeting and the Asaba 2018 African Championships trials in Abuja.
The trials begin on Thursday inside the mainbowl of the Abuja National stadium,same day the Diamond League meeting will hold at the Stade de la Pontaise in Lausanne.
The Nigeria trials was initially billed to hold between Saturday July 7 and Monday July 9 in Osoro,Delta state and the dates were used by the athletes to plan their schedules for competitions and training until last week when the federation changed both the dates and the venue of the competition to July 5-7 in Abuja.
It is not certain which of the two events Okagbare-Ighoteguonor has chosen to attend but if she decides to race in Lausanne,it would be her sixth trip to the French-speaking part of Switzerland.
It will however be her second 100m race after she failed to finish four years ago.She has competed in the long jump event more,four times to be precise,winning in 2013 with her third longest leap (6.98m) of the year following the 7.00m personal best she set in Monaco in July and the 6.99m she jumped to win a silver medal at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow,Russia.
She however disappointed on her last visit two years ago when she leapt a distance of 6.11m to finish sixth.She was second (6.73m) in her maiden appearance at the meeting in 2012,won in 2013 and did not finish in the 100m in 2014 before returning to the long jump pit in 2015 where she jumped 6.68m to finish fourth.
On Thursday the Nigerian will be eager to return to the form that saw her dipped inside 11 seconds (10.90 seconds) to finish second in Doha,Qatar at the opening leg of the 14-leg IAAF Diamond Leg meetings.
In her last appearance in Stockholm,Sweden last month she ran 11.29 seconds to finish fifth.
She will however need to fire up her adrenalin as she is up against the woman who has won the two Diamond League meetings she has participated in over the distance,Cote D’Ivoire’s Marie-Josée Ta Lou who ran 10.85 seconds to win in Doha ahead of the Nigerian.
Also in the starting line-up will be another Ivorian,Ahoure Murielle who dethroned Okagbare-Ighoteguonor as the African 100m record holder (10.78 to 10.79 seconds);Dutch flying woman Dafne Schippers and reigning Olympics double sprints champion,Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson.
The Nigerian will also be up against 2015 NCAA champion Prandini Jenna of the USA and compatriot Aleia Hobbs of Louisiana State University who won the 2018 NCAA 100m title.
Okagbare-Ighoteguonor is currently ranked second behind Ahoure (27 points) in the diamond league ranking with 18 points,same as Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith with Ta Lou fourth with 16 points.
The top eight athletes on points garnered from the seven 100m races to be staged will be awarded starts at the final at the Weltklasse in Zurich on August 30.The winner will become “IAAF Diamond League Champion” and be awarded a Diamond Trophy, $50,000 prize money and a wild card for the IAAF World Championships in Doha in 2019.