BLESSING OKAGBARE: A Dashing African Champion

BLESSING OKAGBARE: A Dashing African Champion

Blessing Okagbare is a Nigerian track and field athlete who specializes in long jumping and short sprints. She is an Olympic and World Championships medalist in the long jump, and a world medalist in the 200 metres. She also 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.

BLESSING OKAGBARE: BACKGROUND

Blessing Okagbare was born in Sapele, Delta, in Nigeria. Given her athletic physique, teachers and family encouraged her to take up sports. She started out playing football as a teenager while in high school and later, in 2004, she began to take an interest in track and field.

She had a good early start, competing in the long jump, triple jump and high jump events at the Nigerian school championships and winning a medal in each. On the senior national stage, she was a triple jump bronze medalist at the 2004 Nigerian National Sports Festival.

Blessing Okagbare’s first international outing came at the 2006 World Junior Championships in Athletics, where she performed in the qualifying rounds of both the long and triple jump competitions.

In May 2007, at the All-Africa Games trials in Lagos, she established a Nigerian record of 14.13 metres in the triple jump. At the 2007 All-Africa Games she won the silver medal in the long jump and finished fourth in the triple jump. 

BLESSING OKAGBARE: DASHING ONTO THE BIG STAGE

At the age of 19 years, she won a bronze medal in the women’s long jump event at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. She was selected to compete at the 2009 World Championships in Athletics but did not start either the 100 m or long jump.

Okagbare scored a 100 m/long jump double at the NCAA Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championship for University of Texas at El Paso, completing an undefeated collegiate streak for the UTEP Miners that year. She won the Nigerian 100 m title in 2010, running a time of 11.04 seconds, and stated that she was opting out of the long jump in order to save herself for the upcoming African championships.

At the African Championships in 2010, she won gold in the long jump again with a distance of 6.62 m while her compatriot Comfort Onyali took silver. Blessing Okagbare also won gold in the 100 m distance with a run of 11.03 s flat. She won her third gold at the end of the championship as part of the Nigerian 4×100 m women’s relay team.

In 2011, Blessing Okagbare continued to build on her earlier performances by adding 100m to her list of conquests, establishing herself as a 100 m runner. At the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, Okagbare placed fifth in the 100 m final with a run of 11.12 s. However, she did not make it to the final of the long jump as her best jump of 6.36 m was not enough to get her out of her qualifying group.

She concluded her 2011 season by winning three medals at the All Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique. She won silver in the 100 m behind compatriot Oludamola Osayomi with a run of 11.01 s and gold in the long jump with a jump of 6.50 m. She was part of the Nigerian quartet that won gold in the 4 × 100 m with a time of 43.34.

In 2012, Blessing Okagbare jumped 6.97 m in the long jump in Calabar during the Nigerian championship. She won new continental medals at the 2012 African Championships in Porto-Novo. In the 100 m she was beaten to silver by Zang Milama, while claiming gold in the long jump with a jump of 6.96m..

At the London 2012 Olympics, Blessing Okagbare participated in her second Olympic Games. Going into the Olympics she had run a number of fast 100 m races and there was much anticipation and hope of a medal. However the 2012 Olympics were not as successful for Okagbare as her 2008 outing. She established a new personal best of 10.92 s in the 100m semi-final but placed eighth in the final with a run of 11.01 s.

In April 2013, in Walnut, California, Blessing Okagbare set a personal record in the 200 m with a time of 22.31 s. Then, in July, she improved her personal best in the long jump with successive jumps of 6.98 m at the Athletissima meet in Lausanne, and 7.00 m during the Monaco Herculis meet.

On 27 July 2013, at the London Anniversary Games, Blessing Okagbare set a new African record of 10.86 s in her 100m race. She won the final about an hour later, setting a new African record of 10.79, in a race where she beat reigning 100 m Olympic gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

Blessing Okagbare’s record eclipsed the existing record by compatriot Glory Alozie of 10.90 s which had stood since 1998.

At the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, she won the silver medal in the long jump. Her jump of 6.99 m put her in second place behind Brittney Reese of the United States by only two centimeters. In the 100 m final, she placed sixth with a run of 11.04 s and also placed third in the 200 m race.

2014 Commonwealth Games[edit]

Blessing Okagbare went on to participate and win at such competitions as the 2014 Commonwealth games {in both the 100m and 200m races), where she broke a broke a 12 year record and became the fourth woman to achieve that feat.

The 2016 Rio Olympics saw Blessing Okagbare have a disappointing run as she finished without a single medal. She never made it to the final but was ranked 3rd in 100m semifinal finishing at 11.09s and ranked 8th with her teammates in the final of 4 × 100 m relay. 

Blessing Okagbare, even despite some of the bumps in her athletic career, has carved a niche for herself as always showing up in big situations, and putting her very best effort in her game, most times, winning big. She continues to be an inspiration to many young girls and ladies, who also dream of one day, blazing the global athletic trail like she has done up till now.

By Oluwamayowa Akinyemi

Oluwamayowa Akinyemi

Oluwamayowa Akinyemi is a digital and web content developer with experience in web content development and management as well as research and writing. He is an avid reader of random subject matters and a sucker for movies and video games. He is also passionate about youth empowerment and is a global affairs analyst and enthusiast.

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