Nigeria’s queen of the tracks, Blessing Okagbare is elated over her latest achievements when she ducked inside 11 seconds for the third time this season Wednesday evening at the P-T-S athletics meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia.
The seven-time Nigeria 100m champion ran 10.98 seconds to win the race and in the process smashed the 11.09 seconds meeting record set in June 1983 by Czech Republic woman, Jarmila Kratochvílová.
“Thank God for another healthy race/win today,” said the Nigerian 100/200m record holder on her Facebook wall after the race. Okagbare has now broken 11 seconds thrice this year.
She ran her first sub-11 seconds of the season at the USTAF invitational in Eugene, Oregon USA in April before scorching to a 10.90 seconds personal season’s best at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Doha, Qatar last week.
Okagbare has now broken 11 seconds for the 21st time in her career, 19 more than Mary Onyali who ducked inside the time just twice.
The first and only Nigerian to win a track and field event medals at the World Athletics Championship, Okagbare broke 11 seconds for the first time in her career at the Crystal Palace Aviva London Grand Prix in Crystal Palace, London on July 14, 2012 when she ran 10.99 seconds in heat one of the meeting before running 11.01 seconds to win in the final.
She raced inside 11 seconds three more times that year, setting new personal best on each ocassion with the 10.92 performance in the semifinal of the event at the Olympics in London her lifetime best to close the year.
In 2013, Okagbare broke 11 seconds thrice with two of them in historic fashions. She started the season with a huge but wind-aided 10.75 seconds in June at the Prefontaine Classic (Diamond League) at the Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, USA.
Hugely disappointed with the trail wind that denied her an obvious chance of breaking her country woman, Glory Alozie’s 10.90 seconds African record, Okagbare followed up with a 10.93 run at the Meeting Areva in Paris in July.
Later that month she rewrote, completely, the African record twice in one evening. She first stormed to a 10.86 seconds finish in heat two of the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games at the Olympic stadium in London. That was the first time an African would legally break 10.90 seconds in the event.
Less than 90 minutes later, she proved her 10.75 seconds wind-aided run in Eugene, Oregon was a sign of what to come as she smashed a barrier she had set earlier that evening by stopping the clocking at 10.79 seconds. It was the fastest time ever returned by an African in the event at the time.
In 2015, Okagbare broke 11 seconds six times, her most in a single season and made it to the 100m final at the World Athletics Championship in Beijing, China. Incidentally, it was the last time the Nigerian would run in the final of any global sprint event.
Okagbare’s impressive performance this season has given Nigerians hope that their sprint queen, for the first time in six years looks set to make the final of a global 100m event which the Tokyo Olympics represent and where making history as the first Nigerian, man or woman to make the blue ribband podium will be the only focus.