Blessing Okagbare: The Surging Powerhouse
When it comes to the world of Nigerian sports, more attention is placed on football with even more attention placed on male athletes. However, distinguishing herself as an attention worthy sportswoman is Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor who has brought not only accolades but also honour to Nigeria.
Born on this day in 1988, in Sapele Delta state, the track and field athlete has not only sprinted her way into glory but also jumped high enough to become a respected athlete globally. In the early stage of her life, she wasn’t planning on running her way to glory and success but the Olympic and World Championships found herself being encouraged to take up sports due to her athletic physique by teachers and family.
She played football as a teenager and began to take an interest in track and field around 2004. While still discovering herself, she took part in a number of disciplines by competing in the long jump, triple jump and high jump events at the Nigerian school championship. Already a budding star, she won medals in each of the events, and went on to win bronze at the senior national stage in triple jump. Her international debut came in 2006 when she had a stellar performance in the World Junior Championships in Athletics.
It was however at the 2007 All-Africa Games trials which held in Lagos that she ensured all eyes were on her after establishing a Nigerian record of 14.13 metres in the triple jump. She would later go on to win silver in the long jump of the event while placing fourth in triple jump.
Still finding her footing, at the tender age of 19-year-old, she took home bronze in the women’s long jump event at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and was selected to compete at the 2009 World Championships in Athletics.
It was gold for Blessing in 2010 at the African Championships in both the long jump and 100 m distance. Her reign of gold continued at the end of the championship as part of the Nigerian 4×100 m women’s relay team. The team of Okagbare, Osayomi, Lawretta Ozoh and Agnes Osazuwa set a new championship record with a run of 43.43 s, more than a full second ahead of the silver-winning Cameroonian quartet.
Not just about winning medals, she holds several records as ensure that she has a long standing legacy. She holds the Women’s 100 metres Commonwealth Games record for the fastest time at 10.85 seconds. Her 100 m best of 10.79 made her the African record holder for the event until it was eclipsed by Murielle Ahouré in 2016. She is the current African record holder in the 200 m with her run of 22.04 seconds in 2018. She was the African 100 m and long jump champion in 2010. She has also won medals at the All-Africa Games, IAAF Continental Cup and World Relays.
The superstar athlete married her heartthrob, Nigerian footballer, Igho Otegheri in September 2014, and continues to do what she knows how to do best which is bring prestige not only to herself but the nation as a whole.