Okagbare bids for first London 2017 medal for Nigeria
Nigerians are definitely fixing their eyes on Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor Friday night as she takes to the long jump pit of the London Olympic stadium to battle for one of the three medals on offer at the ongoing 16th IAAF World Championships.
Blessing who was a medallist four years ago at the championships’ 14th edition in Moscow, will attempt to consolidate on her status as Nigeria’s most successful athlete in the history of the championships by winning her third medal. She won her silver and bronze medals in 2013.
Tonight, the Beijing Olympics silver medallist will be stepping out in her second long jump final in three attempts. She qualified for Friday’s final following her 6.51m leap in the qualifying round to place eighth in the semi-final classification.
As Okagbare prepares, sprint hurdler Tobiloba Amusan will also Friday make her IAAF World Championships bow when she files out at 11.17am for the fifth and final first round heat of the women’s 100m hurdles.
Amusan, one of the two athletes Nigerians are banking on for at least an individual medal at these championships has been in fine form this season and only last June won the highly competitive and prestigious American collegiate title in a 12.57 seconds personal best time.
The time, the second fastest by a Nigerian nay African woman in history catapulted the Nigerian to seventh position in the pre-championships ranking and makes her one of the favourites to qualify for Saturday’s final.
The petite Nigerian will however needs to successfully scale the first round hurdles where she has been drawn to run from lane 8.She is however expected to stroll in to the semi-finals as she is the fastest of all the eight athletes that will battle for the four automatic slots on offer.
A win or top four finish for her will make her the fifth Nigerian athlete to qualify for the semi-finals of the event after Angela Atiede (1997 and 2003), Glory Alozie (1999),Toyin Augustus (2009) and Seun Adigun (2011).
Only Alozie managed to make it to the final and Amusan is tipped to become the second Nigerian to make it to the final and probably the second to also make the podium.
Alozie won a silver medal in the event at the championships’ 7th edition in Seville, Spain.
Also in action Friday is American-born Lindsey Lindley who will also be gunning for a semi-final ticket after crashing out in the first round in her debut in the event and the championships two years ago in Beijing, China.
Lindley will run from lane five in heat three alongside reigning world record holder (12.20 seconds) in the event, USA’s Kendra Harrison who is also the world leader in the event this season at 12.28 seconds; Yanique Thompson of Jamaica, Alina Talay of Belarus, Devynne Charlton of the Bahamas and Australia’s Michelle Jenneke.
The Nigerian will need to run faster than the 12.90 seconds personal best she ran before coming for the championships to make it beyond the first round or she will have to settle for one of the four fastest loser’s slot.