By Onochie Anibeze
As Blessing Okagbare talks about the Moscow Games
The Olympic Games are for all International Olympic Committee accepted sports for the games. The games are not only known for great victories but also for large participation. The more athletes and fans the grander.
These make the difference between the games and the World Athletics Championships that begin today in the ancient city of Moscow in Russia. The World Championships are not for everybody. It is about the few best in athletics.
Today, the best in track and field begin to vie for honours in the 14th edition of the World Championships which promises a $100,000 bonus for any athlete that breaks a world record.
Jamaica’s Usain bolt broke two in Berlin in 2009 and has set himself the target of breaking one in Moscow. He hopes to lower the 19.19 seconds he ran in Berlin where he also set an amazing record in the 100m with 9.58 seconds, a time he would have reduced if he didn’t start celebrating about five metres to the end.
Bolt was the name at the Beijing Olympics, the Berlin Olympics, the Daegu World Championships, the London Olympics and will be the name in Moscow. He is not up to 30 years but already a legend. That’s what great performance and victory turn an athlete into.
Bolt competes against the world in Moscow where Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare is poised to win a medal and make up for the disappointment of the London Olympics last year where the whole country banked on her to place Nigeria on the table. Blessing failed and Nigeria failed.
Today, she begins the heats in the Long Jump, an event where she won bronze in Beijing and which she had the potential to improve on in London. She was not well managed and she concentrated in the sprints, performing well at the pre-games leagues but failing when it mattered most. She has done well at the pre-Moscow leagues even setting an African record in London three weeks ago. She returned to the Bradford Stadium where she placed last in the Olympics finals and won in 10.79 seconds. Shelly Ann Fraser, the Jamaican girl who won in Beijing and in London but who suffered a poor start when Blessing won, according to veteran coach, Tony Urhobo, is still the athlete to beat in Moscow. But this is a great and perhaps the last chance for Blessing to outpace the Jamaican in a world event. The reason is simply what age does to athletes. Fraser won her first Olympics gold at 16 in Beijing. She repeated the feat in London only at 20. And in Rio she will still be only 24 when our Blessing should be 28. To some, it may not matter. But to many, four years are a lot in sports. But these games are not only about the 100m for Blessing. She also features in the 200m where experts say she even possesses greater potential because of her slow starts in the 100m. She wins most of her 100m races in the last ten metres. Her start is always slow but she powers home amazingly. That’s why she is better rated to do well in the 200m than in the 100m. But the 100m has it’s glamour and that’s largely why all sprinters stick to it. So, Blessing will compete in Long Jump, 100m, 200m and possibly the 4x100m relay. What an iron lady. And like she did at the London Olympics, she steps on the tracks with the weight of the whole nation on her shoulders.
Time is no more when many Nigerians will boast of A standard in the Olympics or World Championships. Cast your mind back to when Nigeria boasted the likes of Mary Onyali, Tina Iheagwam, Falilat Ogunkoya, Beatrice Utondu, Faith Idehe, the Aladefas, Fatima Yusuf, Rufina Uba, Charlton Ehiezulen, Bruce Ijirigo, Innocent Egbunike, Sunday Uti, Moses Egbusien, Olapade Adenikan, Ezinwa brothers, Henry Amike, Yusuf Ali, Paul Emordi etc. That’s long ago. Now, Nigeria is in Moscow with some athletes but only one name, Blessing Okagbare.
She is being backed by Delta State government. If she wins any medal in Moscow she will dedicate it to Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, the governor of Delta State who has been backing elite athletes but with special attention on Blessing. Blessing has promised him a medal either here in Moscow or later in Rio. But athletes prefer to go one at a time and Moscow is a good place for Blessing to fulfil her promise to Uduaghan.
”I want to be quiet now. I want to concentrate. I won’t run any other race until Moscow. I don’t even want to talk. I just want to concentrate. I know what Nigerians expect of me. I know how hard I have trained and I know how hard I have equally prayed. Everything is in the hands of God. Let’s not talk now. Let’s talk after the events in Moscow. For now, let’s have peace,” Blessing told this reporter in a conference talk with Amaju Pinnick, the Delta State sports boss who carries out the instructions of Dr Uduaghan on athletes in the state.