Africa’s fastest woman over the 200m, Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor will be seeking her first ever IAAF Diamond League win in the USA when the money-spinning one-day meeting train makes its seventh stop at the Prefontaine Classic today (Sunday).
The tall, elegant and beautifully built Nigerian won the 100m event at the Rabat Diamond League penultimate Saturday to record her first win on her fourth visit to the North African country and will be hoping to build on her success in Rabat as she makes her 10th straight visit to Eugene.
Okagbare is yet to win in Eugene and will hoping the lucky charm she took to Rabat will work for her again.
The Nigerian made her first trip to Eugene on July 3,2010 and ran 11.03 seconds to come fourth in the 100m event. Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown won with a scorching 10.78 seconds.
The 2014 Commonwealth Games double sprint champion returned the following June to run 11.08 seconds to place eighth. USA’s Carmelita Jeter ran 10.70 seconds to win.
In 2012,the Nigerian raced in the 200m and placed third (22.63) while in 2013 she ran a wind- aided 10.75 (+2.2mps) to come second behind Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pyrce (10.71) who would go on to win the 100m title at the IAAF Worlds in Moscow later that year.
In 2014, Okagbare ran a blistering 22.23 seconds over the 200m,then the third fastest time by a Nigerian over the distance behind Mary Onyali (22.07) and Falilat Ogunkoya (22.22) but it was not enough to win the event as USA’s Torie Bowie ran faster (22.18) to win.
Okagbare ran another explosive race at the Hayward Field stadium over the 100m the following year but her very impressive and legal 10.87 seconds run was only good for fourth as the trio of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (10.81),Muriel Ahoure of Cote D’Ivoire (10.81) and Bowie (10.82) were fastest on the day.
Okagbare concentrated on the long jump in 2016 and her 6.73m leap fetched her the fourth position as USA’s Britney Reese won with her 6.92m first round effort.
In 2017, Okagbare remained on the field and jumped 6.52m twice in the fourth and fifth round but it was not enough as she could only place sixth with Reese winning again with the only 7m jump (7.01m) at the meeting.
Okagbare returned to the track last year but her 11.07 seconds run (her second fastest performance of the year) was only good for a sixth place as Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson annihilated the field with a 10.88 seconds finish to win.
This year, the Nigerian (22.58) will be facing Thompson again who has ran faster (22.40) this year. There is also the very impressive Briton, Dina Asher-Smith who is the third fastest athlete over the 200m (22.18) so far this year as well as the Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers who holds a 22.78 personal season’s best.
There is another Nigerian, Nasser Salwa Eid who has switched allegiance to Bahrain and will want to record her first ever win over Okagbare. Nasser has done 22.56 seconds over the distance this year and the Bahranian will hopefully seek to run faster as she seeks the speed to help her confront the irrepressible Bahamian, Shaunae Miller-Uibo over her specialty, the 400m this season. Miller-Uibo is the only quarter-miler who has broken 50 seconds (49.05) so far this year with Nasser miles behind with 50.13.
Also in the half lap mix in Eugene are the USA trio of Bowie, Jenna Prandini and Stevens Deajah. Bulgaria’s Ivet Lalova -Collio completes the list for what should be an interesting race. Asher-Smith tops the 200m Diamond League standing with 16 points after winning in Doha and Stockholm while Schippers is second with 14 points. Okagbare is third with six points garnered with her third place finish in Doha in early May. The Nigerian already tops the 100m standings with 15 points.
By Dare Esan