The year 2013 has been described by the President of the Nigeria Olympic Commission (NOC) Engr. Sani Ndanusa as a year of reshaping and re-engineering of Nigerian sports sector but many wouldn’t forget in a hurry the laurels and glory which came as a reward for the hardworking athletes.
Thus, there’s no disputing the fact that 2013 witnessed an improvement in Nigeria’s athletics scene.
Nigerian athletes continued their surge to the zenith of the continent’s rating by coming first in the African Championships in Porto Novo, Benin Republic.
Other top performances came from the Nigerian wrestlers at the Commonwealth Championships in South Africa and weightlifters, who won medals at the Commonwealth Weightlifting Championships in Malaysia.
Worthy of note is the heroic feat attained by Nigeria’s sprint queen Blessing Okagbare in the year 2013.
The Olympic bronze medalist had an impressive IAAF Diamond Race season capped with another record-breaking feat in the National Championships at the UJ Esuene Stadium in Calabar.
She became the only female athlete to have emerged winner in five successive 100m sprints in the National Championship in June.
Her campaign showed more signs of improvement in Birmingham at the Sainsbury’s Grand Prix where she ran a wind (+0.9m/s) assisted 22.55secs in the 200m to finish first ahead of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Lalova Ivet of Bulgaria one month before the London 2012 Anniversary Games.
Okagbare produced double African Records on her way to claiming a well deserved victory in the 100m in the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games at the London Olympic Stadium in July.
She bettered her 10.86secs finish time in the preliminary heat with 10.79secs in the final- both African records- to power to victory ahead of Barbara Pierre of United States and Trinidad’s Kelly-Ann Baptiste. 2013 IAAF Female Athlete of the Year, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, of Jamaica failed to recover from a poor start only to finish fourth at the London Anniversary Games.
“I just wanted to put up a good race and I’m so excited,” Okagbare said after the race. “For me, I just want to do my best and I’ve been working hard and have tried to stay on top of my recovery.”
After the disappointments of the London 2012 Olympics, the Delta-born athlete remains a blessing to the nation’s track and field, coming up with a silver medal in the long jumps and a bronze in the 200m after 9 days of thrilling and intensive competition at the World Championships in August.
Other notable performance from Okgbare in 2013 includes: Her new Personal Best (6.98m) in the Long Jump category at the Athletissima 2013 IAAF Diamond League meeting in Loussane, Switzerland on July 4. The multi-talented athlete recorded three jumps over 6.80m, topped by her 5th jump of 6.98m (PB) in the 6-jump series to lead Reese Britney of USA and Proctor Shara of Great Britain to first place.
Also her runners-up positions in the 100ms in Shanghai and Oregon’s Prefontaine Classics- finishing behind London Olympic gold medalist Fraser-Pryce in both legs of the Diamond League- deserved credit.