29 July 2014

Nigeria: Okagbare Storms to Sprint Gold, Set New Games Record

Photo: Blessing Okagbare
Blessing Okagbare,centre (file photo).

Africa's fastest female sprinter, Blessing Okagbare, last night stormed to the 100m gold and a new Commonwealth Games record. The gold medal is the third to be won by Team Nigeria at the ongoing edition of the Games in Glasgow, Scotland.

Okagbare got off from the block in a perfect start and switched gear as soon as she was 40m into the race. By 60m mark, it was obvious that her tears of missing out of the podium at the London 2012 Olympics was about to be wiped. At 80m, the Sapele born gazelle had achieved what Mary Onyali-Omagbemi achieved for Nigeria in the 100m at the 1994 Games in Victoria, Canada. She just powered into the finish-line in celebration of her first major title.

The second Nigerian in the final, Gloria Asumnu finished in the eight position. The 25-year-old Delta girl ran 10.85sec - the second fastest time in the world this year - to leave the Jamaican duo of Veronica Campbell-Brown (11.03) and Kerron Stewart (11.07) struggling for the silver and bronze medals respectively.

This first major title was also a personal achievement for Okagbare who erased Debbie Fergusson's record of 10.91 set at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

The University of Texas in El Paso (UTEP) graduate first gave sign of what to expect in the final race when she posted the fastest leading time of 10.93 in the third semi final race. Both Campbell and Stewart failed to do a sub-11 in that stage of the competition.

Okagbare has remained consistent in the sprints since winning a silver and bronze in the long jump and the 200m at the World Championships in Moscow last August. Both medals equaled the best attained by Nigeria at the summit of track and field.

Speaking shortly after the race, Okagbare insisted that the absence of her main rival, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, did not in any way contributed to her winning the 100m gold.

"I am glad to have won this race because it was my first major honour for my country and I want to dedicate the this feat to all Nigerians, most especially my fans whom I know are with me.

She was not bottered by the absence of Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. "I did not feel the absence of anybody, although I have mutual respect for all the competitors in my discipline. What is important to me is that Commonwealth Games race is a major race and that I have achieved the gold medal of the 100m," she gushed with pride.

She tasked the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), to groom more athletes in the sprint since the East African nations have dominated the long distant races.

Okagbare is due to compete in the 200 meters, the women's long jump and the relay races.

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