By Dare Esan:
Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor on Saturday raced home first in record-smashing fashion in the 200m event at the Wes Kittley Invitational at the Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas, USA to not only become the world leader in the event so far this year but also smashed the 22.07 seconds African record set by her compatriot Mary Onyali some 22 years ago at the Wetklasse Grand Prix in Zurich, Switzerland.
Okagbare set a new record of 22.04 seconds on the night.
It was Okagbare’s opening race of the year and the tall and beautiful reigning Commonwealth Games sprints queen has already raised hopes of another successful sprints double next month when she goes for the defence of her Commonwealth Games titles in the Gold Coast, Australia.
The reigning Nigeria 100m champion is also close to fulfilling her wish of becoming the first Nigerian woman to run inside 22 seconds in the 200m.
In 2013, Okagbare stormed to a 10.79 seconds African 100m record to become the first Nigerian nay African woman to legally break 10.80 seconds in the blue ribband event.
Although Cote D’Ivoire’s Muriel Ahoure has since supplanted her as the African record holder in the event (10.78), Okagbare still remains the only Nigerian sprinter to duck inside 10.80 seconds.She now holds the Nigeria 100m (10.79 seconds) and 200m records.
She is also one of only two Africans to have hit the 7m mark in the long jump.Her 7.00m leap in Monaco in July 2013 enroute to her becoming the first Nigerian nay African woman to win a (long) jumps medal at the 2013 IAAF World Championships is bettered only by compatriot Chioma Ajunwa’s 7.12m gold-winning leap at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
The 2013 IAAF World Championships double medallist will now shift her focus to the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast,Australia as she strives to become the first woman to successfully defend a 100m/200m sprints double.
She will also strive to better her 10.85 seconds Games record set on her way to becoming the second Nigerian woman after Onyali to win the 100m gold at the Games.