Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare began her track and field outdoor season campaign on a personal best-setting note in an event she rarely runs,the 400m.
The reigning Nigeria 100/200m record holder ran 53.21 seconds to place second at the Florida International “Pro Addition” meeting held at the Ansin Sports Complex in Florida and betters her previous best of 53.34 seconds which she set six years ago at the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, California.
The 2014 Commonwealth Games double sprints champion has now set three personal bests in 2021 as she intensifies preparations towards a possible podium appearance at the Tokyo Olympics,12 years after she first achieved the feat in Beijing,China.
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She ran 7.10 seconds and 23.01 seconds indoors to win the 60m and 200m respectively last February at the American Track League 3 held at the Randal Tyson Indoor Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
The times are new lifetime bests for the Nigerian which brought her up in the Nigerian all-time list in both events. In the 60m, she is now seventh behind Christy Opara-Thompson (7.02),Chioma Ajunwa (7.02), Gloria Asumnu (7.07), Endurance Ojokolo (7.08) and the duo of Joan Uduak Ekah and Franca Idoko (7.09 each) while in the 200m, she is third behind Favour Ofili (22.75, an African record) and Regina George (23.00).
Okagbare will now be hoping to translate this impressive performances to making a return to the finals of the 100m and 200m at the Olympics for the first time since 2012 when she placed eighth (11.01) in her only final appearance in the sprint events at the Games.
Four years ago, she didn’t race beyond beyond the semi-finals of both events at the Rio Olympics in Brazil.
If she makes it to the final, she will be doing so in any global event for the first time since she placed eighth in the 100m final at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing, China in 2015.