By Dare Esan:
Nigeria’s most successful athlete in the history of the IAAF World Championships, Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor, has been handed another chance to prove that her inability to qualify for the final of the 100m event at the IAAF flagship event in London last week was just a one-off as she has been confirmed to race on Sunday in the Muller Grand Prix in Birmingham, England, the 12th leg of the 14-leg, money-spinning IAAF Diamond League meetings.
Okagbare, who has qualified to run for the $50,000 top prize money on offer next month at the AG Memorial Van Damme in Brussels, Belgium, the 14th and final leg of the meetings following the 17 points she garnered from running in four of the five 100m races concluded so far will hope to lay down a marker for the final in Brussels by getting to the finish line first and win her first blue ribband race in the series.
The Nigerian will try to do what she has been unable to do this season, outrun the likes of reigning Olympic champion Elaine Thompson of Jamaica, two-time world 200m champion Dafne Schippers of Holland and Africa’s rave of the moment Ta Lou Marie-Josée if she indeed wants to race home first on Sunday.
Interestingly, Schippers is just two points behind Okagbare in the standings and will need to run very well and be in the top three at least to secure a lane in the 100m final in Brussels.
Nigeria-born American sprinter Morolake Akinosun (nine points), Ivorian girl and African 100m record holder (10.78 seconds) Muriel Ahoure (nine points) and Jamaica’s Christania Williams (eight points) are also among those aiming to race into next month’s grand finale.
Already assured of a lane in Brussels alongside Okagbare are Thompson (32 points), Ta Lou (27 points) and Trinidad and Tobago’s Michelle-Lee Ahye (21 points).