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Ogunkoya defends Okagbare over 100 metres false start at African Games


Former Nigerian track and field athlete, Falilat Ogunkoya, says Blessing Okagbare has no blame for her disqualification for beating the gun in the women’s 100 metres semi-finals heat on Monday at the on-going African Games in Morocco. Okagbare was sent away after a false start in the 100m race, thereby delaying Nigeria the chance of picking a medal in the event.

Though, Okagbare has since apologized to her fans for the disqualification, some athletics followers feel the Beijing 2008 bronze medalist deliberately beat the starter’s gun as a way of protesting government ‘poor’ treatment of athletes.

But Ogunkoya, who is one of the ex-internationals sponsored by the sports ministry to the African Games, told The Guardian yesterday that Okagbare did not beat the gun deliberately.

“I have read series of comments by Nigerians that Okagbare deliberately beat the gun to earn disqualification in the 100m, but I don’t think so,” Ogunkoya said in a chat with The Guardian. “I spoke with her (Okagbare) shortly after the race, and she was in a sober mood. She actually wanted to win the 100m race, and one could see it in her reactions after the disqualification.

“Okagbare skipped some Diamond Golden Leagues in Europe to prepare for this African Games. Okagbare was here preparing while Cote d’Ivoire’s Marie Ta Lou was running in the Diamond League. To beat the gun deliberately means Okagbare sabotaged herself, and I don’t want to believe that. Okagbare was not the only athlete who suffered disqualification in this African Games.

“On Tuesday, two athletes were disqualified at the same time during the men’s 110m hurdles. I have not seen such a thing before in athletics. I don’t really know what the problem is with the starters here. I want Nigerians not to crucify Okagbare for what happened in the 100m race,” Ogunkoya stated.


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