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National Championships: Okagbare smashes record, inches closer to Onyali’s mark


Blessing Okagbare reacts after winning the 100 meter final during the USATF Grand Prix at Hayward Field on April 24, 2021 in Eugene, Oregon. She won her eighth national 100m title on Thursday in Lagos. Photo: AFP

Blessing Okagbare has set a new national record and is now three wins away from equalling Mary Onyali’s mark after racing to her eighth national 100 metres title on Thursday at the 2021 National Championships/Olympic Games trial in Lagos.

The 32-year-old Olympics, World and Commonwealth Games medallist stormed to a 10.63 seconds national record to win the women’s 100m title.

Okagbare’s time made her the joint second-fastest woman of all time behind 100 metres world record holder Florence Griffith-Joyner’s 10.49s. Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is the other woman to have run 10.63s, a feat she achieved earlier this month in Kingston, Jamaica.

It was Okagbare’s eighth National 100m title, which took her clear of Endurance Ojokolo as the second most decorated sprinter in the blue ribband race, but three wins behind Onyali, who won 11 titles.

Okagbare showed a glimpse of what to expect in the semi-final heat when she scorched to a 10.99 seconds finish at the Yaba College of Technology Sports Complex venue of the Olympic Games trials.

Okagbare’s 10.63 seconds finish is the fastest time ever run in the national championship and the 2014 Commonwealth Games double sprint gold medal winner said she is in great form ahead of the delayed 2020 Olympic Games.

“Since the start of this season, I see myself as very ready,” she said. “I feel healthy, stronger and like the real Blessing Okagbare again. I am really happy that this time came down today; it will boost my confidence, my faith and trust in God.  I just hope this same thing happens at the Olympics.

“I have been working on everything and I hope it counts at the big stage, that’s the Olympics. I was very disappointed at my last meet when I ran 11.2, I was like this is not me, so when they mentioned the trials, I said I am going to be there, not because I just want to run, but because I really want to compete and run well.

“But above all, I am healthier and when you have good health, the confidence will be there, and I am hoping for the best in Tokyo.

“I have to go to the Olympics, do better than I did or better still replicate it, you might not need to run like this to win the Olympics, at the Games you just want to get to the finishing line.”

Another US-based athlete, Rosemary Chukwuma, finished second in 11.07s while National Sports Festival winner, Grace Nwokocha, finished third in 11.11s.

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