2008 Commonwealth gold medalist Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor will be hoping to become the first Nigerian to win a sprint medal in the forthcoming IAAF World Championships which will commence on Friday at the Olympics Stadium in London.
The Nigeria international, who won both silver and bronze medal in long jump and 200m sprint events respectively in the 14th edition of the competition in Russia 2013, will be gunning for huge personal achievements and most evidently – becoming the first Nigerian to win a sprint medal.
Olusoji Fasuba’s fourth place finish in 2007 was the closest Nigeria was to claiming a medal in sprint events at the quadrennial athletics championship.
Okagbare, who ran her first sub-11 seconds 100m race (10.99 seconds) at the IAAF Diamond League in London last month, will bank on her current sublime form in her bid to claiming a medal at the forthcoming event.
The six-time Nigeria 100m champion will have to come up against the likes of Jamaican speedster Elaine Thompson, Dafne Schnippers, Ivorians Muriel Ahoure and Marie-José Ta-Lou, and talented American sprinter Tories Bowie who have all favourites to finish ahead of the Nigerian based on current form.
Okagbare could also seek to make history in the long jump event – to surpass the likes of Innocent Egbunike (400m silver medal winner, 1987); Glory Alozie (100m silver medal winner, 1999) and Francis Obikwelu (200m bronze medal winner, 1999) who were all odds-on-favourites to clinch the title prior to the finals but had the same ugly story to say in the end.
Aside Okagbare, Nigeria could also look up to sprint hurdler Tobilola Amusan for a medal in the competition. The University of Texas in El Paso (UTEP) undergraduate student is the second fastest African of all time in the event and one of the seven fastest in world following the 12.57 seconds she ran last June to win the American collegiate title.
Shot putter Chukwuebuka Enekwechi will require a miracle to make the podium as he will need to throw way father than the 21.07m through which he qualified for the championship.
The 4x400m relay event is another event that Nigerians could also seek medals as the team lead led by Patience Okon-George will want to replicate the form with which they ran an impressive 3:23:27 seconds in the semi-finals two years ago.
However, the President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) Honourable Ibrahim Gusau has advised the athletes to stay away from performance-enhancing drugs, so as to avoid doping issues.
Gusau assured the athletes of the full support of the Federation while also stating that the welfare of the athletes is of paramount importance to the Federation.
“I am delighted to be attending my first World Championships as AFN President and I want to assure you that we shall ensure there is competition at home for athletes to enable them improve on their performances and have the chance to compete against the very best in the world,” Gusau told Completesportsnigeria.com.
“We have plan for training programmes for our coaches and as we improve their capacity they in turn will produce athletes that can be reckoned with in continental and global athletics,” Gusau added.