Nigeria’s fastest lady and Team Nigeria’s gold medal prospect in the fast approaching London 2012 Olympic Games, Blessing Okagbare has said that she is desperately looking forward to the Games. She said she hopes to better her bronze medal performance achieved four years ago in Beijing.
Her desperation is coming on the heels of her recent impressive display both at the international and local scenes coupled with her belief of the enormous responsibility she has to her father land. “I Feel l have more responsibility now than before.
When I went to Beijing Olympics I was young, just 19. I was really naïve then, not sure of what I wanted. But now, I can say of what I really want. I feel like I hold so much for my country and fans. So, I want to go out there and do the best I can and make my country proud,” she said.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP WEEKEND SPORTS before the commencement of the Africa Athletics Championship in Port-Novo, Benin Republic where she featured prominently in the 100m, 200m, 4x400m and long jump for Team Nigeria in preparation for the London Games, Okagbare said she has been working rigorously in training and is not expecting any challenge ahead of the Games. “No challenges. Everything is well with the grace of God for me.”
The Nigerian international who made her official transition from the collegiate system to the professional circuit just last year, insists she is not scared of any athlete around the globe, not even the world top athlete like Carmelita Jeter.
“You are looking at her while other people are looking out for me. Just like I said before, it is a game. The people you are looking at may not even shine in London. Pay attention to whoever you want to look out for in Olympics.”
Okagbare has qualified for all three events in London although the timetable suggests a choice between the 200m and long jump.
The rise to stardom of the 22-year-old sprinter who five years ago announced her arrival on the national stage with a bang - at the All-Africa Games trials in Lagos is a tough one to believe.
A year later in Beijing Olympics, Okagbare, who was only competing because Ukrainian finalist Lyudmila Blonska was thrown out for doping, won a bronze medal in the Women’s Long Jump with a personal best jump of 6.91 metres behind Maureen Higa Maggi of Brazil and Tatyana Lebedeva of Russia.
After her transition to running the sprints in July 2009, she won the 100 metres at the Nigeria/Mobil Track and Field Championships with a time of 11.16 seconds, beating favourite and defending champion, Oludamola Osayomi to the national title. She then got injured and had a rather disappointing time at the Berlin World Championships, as she was unable to start even though she was entered in the 100m and long jump.
In February 2010, after a one-year hiatus from Collegiate indoor competitions, Okagbare won the US national Indoor titles in the 60 metres and long jump and grabbed top honours in the long jump whilst also breaking the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Championships meet in a record twice.
Three months later, Okagbare, added NCAA crowns during the outdoor season in the 100 metres and long jump, becoming the first in the collegiate history to pull off such a feat.
She was undefeated in all sprints and jump finals during the season and drew the curtain on her collegiate career with four national titles, 11 All-America honours and 15 Conference USA championships in 2010.