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Hicks erases 13-year-old hurdles record in Sapele, Okagbare wins 100m crown

By Gowon Akpodonor
08 July 2016   |   1:44 am
Before yesterday’s feat, Okagbare’s Championship record was 11.06 seconds, which she set at the 2010 edition in Calabar. Peace Ukoh came second, while Gloria Asumnu finished third.
Blessing Okagbare

Blessing Okagbare

The 2016 All Nigerian Open Championship produced a new national record in Sapele, Delta State, yesterday as US-based Arthon Hicks erased the 110m hurdles record, winning at 13.27 seconds. The previous record of 13.42 seconds was set by William Erese in the United States in 2003.

The championship serves as the qualifier for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Hicks’ winning time of 13.27secs also qualified him for the Rio Olympics, although the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) will have to ratify the new record.

However, the biggest event that caught the attention of Sapele fans yesterday was the women’s 100m final, where home-girl, Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor dominated the field to win the title in 11.02 seconds, her seventh title. Okagbare missed the 2015 edition of the All-Nigeria Championships in Warri.

Before yesterday’s feat, Okagbare’s Championship record was 11.06 seconds, which she set at the 2010 edition in Calabar. Peace Ukoh came second, while Gloria Asumnu finished third.

A keen contest is also expected in the male’s race today where Divine Oduduru and Egwero Ogho-Oghene have already wet the fans’ appetite with their 10.23secs wining times in their respective heats yesterday.

It was a standing ovation for Okagbare, as she ran around the stadium acknowledging cheers from the crowd, including her husband.

“The atmosphere here became supercharged even before Okagbare won the 100m title,” AFN President, Solomon Ogba told The Guardian. “She got every support she needed from the home fans and everywhere she turned, the people hailed, clapped and shouted in her support. It is understandable because Sapele is her home.”

On his part, Hicks has promised to lower the record further, stating that he would have done better but for the heat around the stadium environment.

He also said that the Zika virus that is causing malaria in Brazil would not deter him from flying Nigeria’s flag Rio, his first Olympics.

“I am positive. I feel relieved now because I have been trying all year round to meet the qualifying time. I can’t drop out from my first Olympics because of Zika. I will equip myself with necessary mosquito repellants and head for the tracks in Brazil,” he told journalists after setting the new national record in men’s 110m hurdles in Sapele yesterday.

Speaking further, Hicks assured that more work needed to be done for him to go far at the Olympics. He said: “I am ready mentally. The new national record is a child’s play compared to serous nerve breaking time at the world stage.”

Meanwhile, AFN Technical Director, Navy Commodore Omatseye Nesiama, has predicted that more records would be set in Sapele, adding that the 400m record held by Henry Amike had stayed for too long.

“The crowd at the Sapele stadium is encouraging and good for record breaking races. I expect these athletes to take advantage of it,” Nesiama stated.

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