*Anigbata wins gold in triple jump for Team Nigeria
Blessing Okagbare’s quest for her first ever sprint gold medal of the African Games ended in fiasco on Monday in Rabat, Morocco as the former African 100m record holder got disqualified in the semi final.
Her only chance of leaving Morocco with a medal now is only in the 4x100m relay as she was not listed to race in the longer 200m sprint event nor the long jump where she won her first Olympic bronze medal in Beijing in 2008.
The Commonwealth Games double sprint winner at the 2014 Games in Glasgow
won a silver medal in the 100m behind compatriot, Damola Osayomi at the 10th edition of the Games in Maputo, Mozambique
Most track and field aficionados were truly expecting to see Okagbare take on Ivorian Marie Jose Ta Lou who is the defending champion from the last Games to know who is the fastest woman in the continent.
Ta Lou is 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 clocked 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.
THISDAY however learnt last night that the leadership of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) is likely going to probe Okagbare’s beating of the gun that led to her disqualification.
“This is not acceptable. Blessing (Okagbare) is too experienced in the sport to do this here in Morocco. The federation (AFN) needs to look into why she did that,” observed a top track and field official last night.
Okagbare and some of the country’s top athletes had initially resented going to the 12th African Games, citing lack of motivation from the AFN for their welfare and training.
The federation however turned down the move, insisting that any of the top athletes that missed the African Games would not be selected in the country’s contingent to both next month’s IAAF World Championship in Doha, Qatar and the Olympic Games next year in Tokyo, Japan.
Okagbare is expected to race in the 200m event of the penultimate final race of the money spinning 2019 IAAF Diamond League in Zurich, Switzerland on Thursday.
With Okagbare’s ouster, Nigeria will have only one athlete in the final of the event after Making of Champions’ Joy Udo-Gabriel won her semi-final heat in 10.47 seconds, one hundreth of a second slower than her opening round heat.
In the men’s version, the duo of Usheoritse Itsekiri and Raymond Ekebwo made it to the final with both winning their respective semi-final heats.
Itsekiri ran 10.25 seconds to win the second semi-final while Ekevwo was a hundreth of a second slower to win the third semi-final.
Nigeria’s third entrant in the race, Seye Ogunlewe failed to advance after finishing fourth in the second semi-final in 10.45 seconds.
Itsekiri and Ekevwo will be sure candidates for the podium in the final this afternoon with the duo of Cote d’Ivoire’s Cisse Gue Arthur who ran 10.27 seconds to come second in the second semi-final and Gambia’s Camara Ebrahima who also ran 10.27 seconds
to win the second semis.
Meanwhile, Grace Anigbata made history on the same day Okagbare fumbled to become the second Nigerian woman to win the triple jump gold 24 years after Rosa Collins (now a member of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria board) won the event’s inaugural title in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Anigbata, who last year first made history as the first Nigerian to win gold in the event at the African Championship level hopped, stepped and jumped into a 13.75m personal seaosn’s best to win the title ahead of Morocco’s Chnaik Jamaa (13.69m) and South Africa’s Chabangu Zinzi (13.59m).
In the men’s discus final, Nigeria’s Ogundeji Ayomidotun Kelvin settled for the silver medal with his 57.82 throw behind Egypt’s Ahmed Shebab who threw 59.29m to win the gold.
In the women’s 400m, the Nigerian trio of Favour Ofili, Obi Amarachukwu Jecinta and Patience Okon-George qualified for today’s semi-finals with Ofili running 52.20 seconds to win her heat.
Obi ran 55.24 seconds to place third in her heat while Okon-George was second in her own heat in 54.99 seconds.