Blessing Okagbare: Her Persistence Made The Difference

Born 9 October 1988, Blessing Okagbare from Sapele in Delta State, is a track and field athlete who specializes in long jump and short sprints. She is an Olympic and World Championships medalist in the long jump, and a world medalist in the 200m. She also holds the women’s 100m Commonwealth Games record for the fastest time at 10.85 seconds. Her 100m best of 10.79 makes her the African record holder for the event. She was the African 100m and long jump champion in 2010. She has also won medals at the All-Africa Games and the IAAF Continental Cup.
Given her athletic physique, teachers and family encouraged her to take up sports. Initially she played football as a teenager at her high school and later, in 2004, she began to take an interest in track and field. She participated in a number of disciplines early on, competing in the long jump, triple jump and high jump events at the Nigerian school championships and winning a medal in each.
On the senior national stage, she was a triple jump bronze medalist at the 2004 Nigeria National Sports Festival. Her first international outing came at the 2006 World Junior Championships in Athletics, where she performed in the qualifying rounds of both the long and triple jump competitions.
In May 2007, at the All-Africa Games trials in Lagos, she established a Nigerian record of 14.13m in the triple jump. At the 2007 All-Africa Games, she won the silver medal in the long jump and finished fourth in the triple jump.In the latter competition, her Nigerian record was beaten by Chinonye Ohadugha, who jumped 14.21 metres.
Olympic and African medals:
As a 19-year-old, she won a bronze medal in the women’s long jump event at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. She scored a 100m/long jump double at the NCAA Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championship for University of Texas at El Paso, completing an undefeated collegiate streak that year. She won the Nigerian 100m title in 2010, running a time of 11.04 seconds, and stated that she was opting out of the long jump in order to save herself for the upcoming African championships.
At the African Championships in 2010, she won gold in the long jump again with a distance of 6.62m while her compatriot, Comfort Onyali took silver. She also won gold in the 100m distance with a run of 11.03s flat, while Gabon’s Ruddy Zang Milama and compatriot, Oludamola Osayomi won silver and bronze with runs of 11.15s and 11.22s respectively. She won her third gold at the end of the championship as part of the Nigerian 4×100m women’s relay team. The team of Okagbare, Osayomi, Lawretta Ozoh and Agnes Osazuwa set a new championship record with a run of 43.43s, more than a full second ahead of the silver-winning Cameroonian quartet.
In 2011, she continued to build on her earlier endeavours by establishing herself as a 100m runner. At the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, she placed fifth in the 100m final with a run of 11.12s. However, she did not make it to the final of the long jump as her best jump of 6.36m was not enough to get her out of her qualifying group. She concluded her 2011 season by winning three medals at the All Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique. She won silver in the 100m behind compatriot, Oludamola Osayomi with a run of 11.01s and gold within the long jump with a jump of 6.5 0m. She was part of the Nigerian quartet that won gold in the 4x100m with a time of 43.34.
2012 was a busy year for her. She jumped 6.97m in the long jump in Calabar during the Nigerian championship. She won new continental medals at the 2012 African Championships in Porto Novo. In the 100m, she was beaten to silver by Zang Milama, while in the long jump she claimed gold with a jump of 6.96m.
London 2012 and 2013 World Championships:
At London 2012, she participated in her second Olympic Games. Going into the Olympics, she had run a number of fast 100m races and there was much anticipation and hope of a medal. However the 2012 Olympics were not as successful as her 2008 outing. She established a new personal best of 10.92s in the 100m semi-final but placed eighth in the final with a run of 11.01s.
2013 proved to be a breakthrough year for her. ln Walnut, California, she set a personal record in the 200m with a time of 22.31s. Then, in July, she improved her personal best in the long jump with successive jumps of 6.98m at the Athletissima meet in Lausanne, and 7.00m during the Monaco Herculis meet. ln July 27, 2013, at the London Anniversary Games, she set a new African record of 10.86s in her 100m race. She won the final about an hour later, setting a new African record of 10.79, in a race where she beat reigning 100m Olympic gold medalist, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. Her record eclipsed the existing record by compatriot, Glory Alozie of 10.90s which had stood since 1998.
At the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, she won the silver medal in the long jump. Her jump of 6.99m put her in second place behind Brittney Reese of the United States by only two centimetres. In the 100m final, she placed sixth with a run of 11.04s and also placed third in the 200m race.
2014 Commonwealth Games:
She participated in both the 100m and 200m races and made it through to the finals of the 100m and won with a time of 10.85, breaking the games record of 10.91 seconds set by Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie 12 years earlier at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester. She also won the gold medal in the 200, with a time of 22.25 seconds. In doing so, she became the fourth woman to win the 100m and 200m double at the Commonwealth Games.