By John Egbokhan
Nigeria’s brightest prospects for a medal at the Olympics Games starting on July 27, Blessing Okagbare has said that she was not going to fumble when push comes to shove in London.
Okagbare has been in imperious form of late, winning two IAAAG Diamond League races to push her stake for a medal in the women’s 100m against a star-studded field, comprising defending Olympic champion Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce of Jamaica (10.70), Camelita Jeter of the USA (10.81), Veronica Campbell Brown (10. 82), Kelly Ann Baptiste (10.86) and Allyson Felix of USA (10.92).
The meet in Monaco was the final major stop before the Games of the XXX Olympiad, London 2012. Choruses of The Clash classic ‘London Calling’ were in heavy rotation throughout the evening during the ninth stop on the Diamond League circuit, ndicating where the focus of the athletics world would be turning immediately following the meeting-ending fireworks display. And no one looked more like an Olympic champion-in-waiting than Ikagbare, whose 10.96 run through the still Mediterranean evening was another personal best for the former African 100m champion.
With the victory, Okagbare has done enough to make the sprint world take note and add her to the list of solid medal contenders in London.
Running even with American Tianna Madison for much of the race, the 23-year-old Nigerian pulled away over the final 20 metres to a 10.96 victory, despite a stumble at the start. Madison finished second in a time of 10.99 while another American, Tianna Madison clocked 11.09 to finish third.
With fears raised over her ability to withstand the pressure at the big stage that the Olympics offers, given that she has expended more energy in her last two races, Okagbare dispelled any such thought of a flop, insisting that she was capable of handling the pressure at the Games.
Speaking moments after her triumph, Okagbare, who a week back in Crystal Palace, dusted a stronger field comprising Fraser-Pryce and Jeter, said “for now, I am just going to keep my focus, go to London and do my very best there. I won’t fumble. I am a competitor and hope to give my best ,” said Okagbare, who took the African title in the Long Jump late last month and would also be competing in the long jump at the Games.
She won bronze at the Beijing Games, four years back and hopes to improve on that feat in London 2012 but with so much activity lately, athletics buffs are sceptical of her ability to excel.