By John EGBOKHAN
Olympic medalist and African sprints legend, Mary Onyali has tipped Blessing Okagbare to win a medal at the IAAF World Athletics Championships, starting tomorrow in Moscow.
Okagbare, a London 2012 Olympics 100m finalist, is leading the Nigerian chase for medals at the worlds, where she will be amongst the favourites in the 100m, 200m and women’s long jump.
After falling short of winning a medal at the last Olympics, Okagbare, who has been in sensational form in the IAAF Diamond League series, which culminated with her setting a new African record of 10.79s in the 100m, is once again thrown into spotlight as Moscow 2013 begins.
Having followed the strides of the 24 year old runner, Onyali feels that the time has come for Okagbare to finally break her duck and win a medal at the big stage.
“I feel that she is capable of winning a medal at the World Championship. Having followed her progress through the years and seen how she has been developing, one can see real signs that she would win a medal in Moscow.”, Onyali told Sports Vanguard,
On the colour of medal that Okagbare will win, Onyali said “that I can’t say because she is already under pressure and I do not want to add to that burden”.
She added that Okagbare has matured and can deal with the atmosphere of the big occasion, adding that the disappointment of London 2012 was going to propel her to glory in Moscow.
“She has been through this road before at the London 2012, which unfortunately was not a blessing for her. But reaching the final of the 100m was an achievement by any standard and I feel that she has learnt from what happened at the Olympics and is now ready to make it big.
“To whom much is given, much is expected and she is aware of the expectations. She has the experience.. It is a new Blessing that we would see in Moscow and I see her winning a medal, if not medals”, added Onyali, who is the Special Assistant to the Director-General of the National Sports Commission, Tunde Elegbeleye.
Onyali added that her medal focus was not only on Okagbare but the other 19 Nigerian athletes, who she feels are the best set to be selected in the last eight years of participation at the World Athletics Championships
“She is the hottest kid on the block right now but that does not take anything away from the other athletes, who were carefully selected on merit and performance for this important Championships. I don’t want to finger out any athlete for medal because we know who is who as far as the world ranking is concerned but it all boils down to what you bring to the table on the day of the competition..
“Our athletes are very prepared and can reach the semifinals of their events. They can’t joke with this opportunity to shoot to world prominence. They are better equipped in the area of coaching and technology and more importantly, they are the best athletes, which were picked from all over the world. This team is precise and tight.”, she added.
Nigeria’s Team List
1. Blessing Okagbare 100m/200m/Long Jump
2. Gloria Asumnu 100m
3. Regina George 400m
4. Ajoke Odumosu 400m Hurdles
5. Omolara Omotosho 400m
6. Ehigie Josephine 400m
7. Okon Patience 400m
8. Stephanie Kalu 100m
9. Ugonna Ndu 400m Hurdles
10. Uko Peace 4x100m
11. Mayungbe Ibukun 4x400m
12.Abogunloko Bukola 4x400m
13. Egwero Ogho-Oghene 100m
14. Noah Akwu 200m/400m
15. Momoh Leoman 800m
16. Tosin Oke Triple Jump
17. Onakoya Abiola 4x400m
18. Salihu Isah 4x400m
19. Ogunmoa Tobi 4x400m
20. Odeka Gerald 4x400m