Athletics fans brace up for the 2013 edition of the IAAF World Championships, slated for August 10 to 18, yet many remain cynical over Nigeria’s chances of gracing the podium with Blessing Okagbare being the only realistic medal hopeful at the biennial event holding in Moscow, Russia.
The home-based contingent of Team Nigeria athletes flew out of the country yesterday, but not without another upbeat message from Los Angeles ’84 bronze medalist in the 4x400m, Sunday Uti- one of the coaches for the championships.
After her dismal performance at the London 2012 Olympic, there have been concerns from several quarters that Delta-born multi-talented athlete, Okagbare, could again yield to the weight of expectation from millions of Nigerians.
The Olympics is gone and Blessing has been in blistering form. She has put that performance at the Olympic behind and has posted better times at the just concluded Diamond League where she set a new African 100m record of 10.79secs,” Uti said before leaving for Moscow.
24-year-old Olympic Bronze medalist, Okagbare, buried her London 2012 nightmares (a losing finalist over 100m) behind her at the same venue by breezing to the finish line in double African record on July 27.
If numbers could speak; the cynics should realise 2013 is a different year for the Beijing Olympic bronze medalist. Okagbare nose-dived from a 100m Personal Best (PB) of 10.7secs in 2010 to 11.08secs in 2011, prior to the 2012 Olympic season, when she could only recover with a 10.92secs P.B. at the Games. Meaning, she was doing fine before the Olympic, but far from being a realistic contender, with due respect to Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Carmelita Jeter.
So far, the 2013 athletic season has been good for Okagbare, who became Nigeria’s sprint queen with five consecutive national titles in the 100m, improving in leaps and bounds.
“We are without question, in a better position going into the World Championships,” Uti added. “We’re encouraged by Okagbare’s form which no doubt will rub off on the team. We are prepared and focused.”
At the 10th phase of the IAAF Diamond League in Monaco on July 19, Okagbare’s leaped beyond Russia’s Klishina Darya and Proctor Shara of Great Britain to win the long jump in 7.04m, recording her Personal and Season Best of 7.00m (0.0m/s) at the same (Herculis) event.
She has recovered and has proved she’s a top contender ahead of Saturday’s opening of Moscow 2013; however, Uti dismissed fears, urging Nigerians to be prayerful.
“She is a world star athlete. Nigerians should pray for her. There is nothing to be afraid of. Team Nigeria will strike gold in Moscow.”