Nigerian athletes begin quest for medals

Okagbare punches the air in delight after crossing the line ahead of Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown in the 100m final at Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Can she do it in London?

Amusan, Ajayi, Okon-George, Brume Arrive
The 16th IAAF World Championships flagged off yesterday in London, but for Team Nigeria, today marks the beginning of activities as reigning Commonwealth queen of the track Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor steps into the Olympics stadium for the 100m race with great expectation.

The last batch of Nigerian athletes departed yesterday. While sprint hurdler Oluwatobiloba Amusan landed in London in the early hours of yesterday, Patience Okon-George, Glory Onome and her brother Samson left in the morning, just as Yinka Ajayi and Abike Egbeniyi also jetted out yesterday evening. Long jumper Ese Brume left from the Murtala Mohammed International airport, Lagos through British Airways at about 10 pm yesterday.

Secretary General of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Akawo Ameachi told The Guardian that all the athletes had gotten their visas and had jetted out to London. “I am at the airport to sort out things for the last batch of athletes. All of them will jet out today (yesterday),” Ameachi said.

All eyes will be on Okagbare as she steps out for the 100m race at 11.45 this morning. The Sapele-born sprinter, won a silver (long) and bronze (200m) medal winner at the 14th edition of the championships four years ago in Moscow, Russia, where she made history as the first Nigerian to win two medals at the same championships. She will be hoping to become the first Nigerian to win a gold medal in the 100m event.

The closest Nigeria came was Olusoji Fasuba’s fourth place finish in 2007 at the Naggai stadium in Osaka, Japan, but Okagbare will relish her chances of surpassing that feat following her late return to form.

She ran her first sub-11 seconds 100m race (10.99 seconds) last month at the IAAF Diamond League meeting at the Olympic stadium in London, venue of the championships.

Okagbare will also be banking on the fast track at the Olympic stadium, which has proved to be a good ground for her, as it was at the same track in 2013 that she became the first Nigerian nay African woman to run a sub-10.80 seconds (10.79 seconds) in the 100m.

But the US-based Okagbare will have to find a way to outdo the Jamaicans’ duo of Elaine Thompson and Dafne Schippers who will be looking forward to win the 100m title in absence of their fellow Jamaican speed star, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who is pregnant.The final of the women’s 100m will hold at 21.50 pm tomorrow.

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