Celebrated Nigerian athlete, Blessing Okagbare, turned up with an impressive 22.04secs in her 200m race at the Wes Kittley Invitational Track and Field Meet at the Abilene Christian University, which erased the 22-year-old previous African record of 22.07secs set by Mary Onyali at a Meet in Switzerland in 1996.
Apart from becoming the new African record in the race which Cierra White followed in second place in 23.26secs, while Natasha McDonald settled for third in 24.23secs, Okagbare’s winning time also became the new national record in the women’s 200m. Okagbare’s previous personal best in the event, was 22.23secs was set at the 2014 Eugene Diamond League.
Mary Onyali, who was particularly pleased that her 22 year-old African record has been broken by her compatriot, told a ThisDay correspondent;
“My 200m African record went to my little sister yesterday. Congrats Ble-Ble Baby ! Now we are back on track !! Thanks for keeping this in the family Kitty; While we hunt for the other one ! On a mission. Stay tuned” as she gushed with enthusiasm at the feat of Okagbare yesterday.
Okagbare’s previous Personal Best (PB) in the event was 22.23s, set at the 2014 Eugene Diamond League. She now holds the Nigerian women’s records in the 100m (10.79secs) and 200m (22.04secs).
With this new form, it is going to be difficult for the Delta-born sprinter to avoid defending the double sprint medals she won at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland four years ago.
The former Team Nigeria captain had earlier signified her intention, to race only in the 4x100m relay at the Games scheduled to hold in Gold Coast, Australia between April 4 and 15. She remains the favourite for both the 100m and 200m gold medals at the Games, even though the Wes Kittley Invitational was her first competition of the season.
The 26-year-old is one of the 37 athletes listed by the Athletics Federation of Nigeria to participate at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, which begins on April 4.