Former African 100m record holder, Blessing Okagbare will begin her quest for a first ever sprint title when the track and field events of the 12th All Africa Games begin on Monday August 26 in Rabat, Morocco, Completesports.com reports.
Okagbare has won just a silver medal in the 100m behind compatriot, Damola Osayomi at the 10th edition of the Games in Maputo, Mozambique and the 2014 Commonwealth Games double sprint champion will be desperate to add the All Africa Games blue ribband title to her rich collection of titles.
Standing before her and history is defending champion, Cote D’Ivoire’s Marie Jose Ta Lou who is coming to the Games as Africa’s fastest in the event.
Ta Lou is also the only African who has broken 11 seconds in the event so far this year and the Ivorian has done that thrice this season. She ran 10.93 seconds personal season’s best in Lausanne early June before going inside 11 seconds twice in London last month at the Muller Anniversary Games.
Interestingly, both Ta Lou and Okagbare have clashed thrice over the 100m this year with the Ivorian having a 2-1 lead.
Okagbare defeated Ta Lou in their first meeting in Rabat in June with the Nigerian running a then personal season’s best of 11.05 seconds to win the race. Ta Lou was second in 11.09 seconds.
The duo met again last month at the Muller Anniversary in London. The Ivorian came second in the second heat with a 10.96 seconds performance against the Nigerian who ran 11.10 seconds to place third. In the final, Ta Lou broke 11 seconds again, running 10.98 seconds to place third with Okagbare fourth with a new 11.04 seconds personal season’s best.
On paper, the race looks to be between the duo albeit South Africa’s Tebogo Mamathu who ran a new 11.04 seconds personal best at the end of June and another Ivorian, Muriel Ahoure who holds the African record (10.78 seconds) in the event set some three years ago and has raced only thrice in the event so far this term with an 11.15 seconds personal season’s best are also contenders.
The other two Nigerians in the race, Alphonsus Anikeme and Joy Udo-Gabriel should make it to the final albeit a podium placing looks a very distant possibility.
If Okagbare wins the final on Tuesday, she will become the sixth Nigerian after Jumoke Bodunrin (1965), Tina Iheagwan (1987),Mary Onyali (1991, ’95 and 2003), Mercy Nku (1999) and Damola Osayomi (2007,2011).
In the men’s 100m, Africa’s fastest man this year, Divine Oduduru has opted out of the 100m event.
Oduduru who ran 9.86 seconds to win the 100m title at the NCAA championship in June this year to become the man to beat at the Games told Nigerian officials he will only be running the 200m.
Nigeria has not mounted the podium in this event since 2007 in Algiers where Olusoji Fasuba ran 10.18 seconds ahead of Ghana’s Eric Nkansah (10.35) and compatriot,Uchenna Emedolu (10.37) to win the gold.
Oduduru was expected to return Nigeria to the podium in the event and with his confirmed absence, the trio of Raymond Ekevwo (10.02 seconds season’s best),Usheoritse ITSEKIRI (10.07 personal season’s best) and Seye Ogunlewe (1011 personal seaosn’s best) will attempt to wrestle the gold medal from the Ivorians who are the defending champions and clear favourites to repeat as winners.
With South Africa’s Akani Simbine (9.93 season’s best) absent, Arthur Cisse of Cote D’Ivoire who has also ducked inside 10 seconds (9.93 seconds) this year is the hot favourite to win the title his compatriot, Ben Youssef Meïté ran a then 10.04 national record towin in Maputo, Mozambique four years ago.
By Dare Esan