By Dare Esan:
Former Commonwealth double sprints queen, Blessing Okagbare-Ighotegunor is seeking to finish her season in the same explosive way she started in March when she raced to the top of the world list with an incredible African record-setting 22.04 seconds run in the 200m in Abilene, Texas, USA, Completesportsnigeria.com reports
Today at the Weltklasse IAAF Diamond League meeting in Zurich, the Nigeria 100m/200m record holder will hope to bounce back from what has been a disappointing season to become the first Nigerian, man or woman, to be crowned the IAAF Diamond League champion eight years after the competition changed nomenclature from Golden League to Diamond League.
Okagbare-Ighoteguonor only needs to produce a world leading performance to win the 100m title, the accompanying $50,000 prize money and of course a place in Nigeria’s record books.
But can she?
Since she ran 10.90 seconds to place second behind Cote D’Ivoire’s Marie-Jose Ta Lou (10.85 seconds) in the opening leg of the competition in Doha,Qatar on May 4, the Nigerian has failed to race inside 11 seconds. She ran 11.07 seconds to place seventh in Eugene,Oregon, USA at the Prefontaine Classics on 26 May and dropped in performance to 11.12 seconds to place fourth at the Mobil Bislett Games on June 7 in Oslo,Norway.
Okagbare-Ighoteguonor dropped further down to an incredible 11.29 seconds to finish fifth three days later in Stockholm, Sweden at the BAUHAUS-galan 2018 Diamond League meeting before finishing last (11.32 seconds) on July 20 at the Herculis Zepter in Monaco.
Can Okagbare-Ighoteguonor thus overcome the odds firmly stacked against her in form of Dina Asher-Smith and Ta Lou,the joint fastest sprinters in the event so far this year at 10.85 seconds?
If experience can be taken as a factor to spring a surprise which the tall, beautifully built and pretty Nigerian has in abundance, history does not however favour her.
Five times she has visited Zurich in the past and five times she has failed to either race or jump to the top of the pack.
She made her first visit in 2010 and expectedly failed to fly to glory as she just served notice of a world class sprinter in the making following her incredible success at the National Collegiate of Athletics (NCAA) championships where she ran a wind-aided 10.98 seconds to win the 100m title.
In Zurich she ran 11.19 seconds to place sixth in a race Veronica Campbell-Brown out-dipped Carmelita Jeter to win albeit both ran 10.89 seconds.
Okagbare-Ighoteguonor was not in Zurich the following year but made a return in 2012 to place fourth in the 100m (11.16 seconds) and leapt a distance of 6.85m to place second in the long jump.
She came back a year later to compete only in the long jump and placed second again with her 6.76m leap behind Britain’s Shara Proctor who leapt 6.88m to win.
In 2014 the Nigerian improved to third in the 100m but still failed to break 11 seconds. She however came back the following year to run her only sub 11 seconds in the blue ribband event at the meeting,racing home second in 10.98 seconds behind the inimitable pocket dynamite, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce who was five hundreth of a second faster in 10.93 seconds.
FINAL PRIZE MONEY
Place Prize Money
100m Start List
1.Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor (NGR,PB-10.79,SB-10.90)
2.Kambundji Mujinga (SUI,PB-10.95,SB-10.95)
3.Ahoure Murielle (CIV,PB-10.78,SB-10.90)
4.Asher-Smith Dina (GBR,PB-10.85,SB-10.85)
5.Ta Lou Marie-Josee (CIV,PB-10.85,SB-10.85)
6.Schippers Dafne (NED,PB-10.81,SB-10.99)
7.Ahye Michelle-Lee (TTO,PB-10.82,SB-11.06)
8.Horn Carina (RSA,PB-10.98,SB-10.98)
PB-Personal Best,SB-Season Best