Blessing Okagbare is pleased with her performance in the P-T-S athletics competition in Bratislava, Slovakia, on Wednesday evening, when she dipped within 11 seconds for the third time this season.
The seven-time Nigeria 100 metres champion ran 10.98 seconds to win the race and in the process smash the 11.09 seconds meeting record set in June 1983 by Czech Republic icon, Jarmila Kratochvílová.
“Thank God for another healthy race/win today,” said the Nigerian 100 and 200m record holder on her Facebook page after running inside 11 seconds for the third time this year.
She ran her first sub-11 seconds of the season at the USTAF invitational in Eugene, Oregon in April before scorching to a 10.90 seconds season’s best at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Doha, Qatar last week.
It is also the 21st time that Okagbare has run under 11 seconds in her career. It is a figure 19 times more than the number of times Mary Onyali, long considered Nigeria’s greatest sprinter, has ducked inside the 11-second mark.
Okagbare broke 11 seconds for the first time in her career at the Crystal Palace Aviva London Grand Prix in London on July 14, 2012, when she ran 10.99s.
She raced inside 11 seconds three more times that year, setting a new personal best on each occasion 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 fashion. She started the season with a huge but wind-aided 10.75s in June at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon, USA.
Hugely disappointed with the trail wind that denied her an obvious chance of breaking her countrywoman, Glory Alozie’s 10.90s African record, Okagbare followed it up with a 10.93s run at the Meeting Areva, in Paris, in July.
Later that month, she smashed the African record twice in one evening, first storming to a 10.86s 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 10.90s in the event.
Less than 90 minutes later, she proved her 10.75s wind-aided run in Eugene, Oregon was a sign of what is to come as she smashed a barrier she had set earlier that evening by stopping the clock at 10.79s. 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 podium in the 100m will be the only focus.
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