When the divorce proceeding initiated by track and field athlete, Blessing Okagbare is completed, the track star would have her name in the divorce list as one celebrity, who raced to the end of her marriage without her once cherished partner, Igho Otegheri, writes Ferdinand Ekechukwu
Nigeria’s star athlete, Blessing Okagbare’s looming divorce following a stint of marital crisis is like a dash to the finishing line barely after the starting gun. Or how else can it be described? Ever since her post elementary school day, the only sound Blessing Okagbare has been familiar with is the starter’s gun. And after burning the tracks in major cities across the United States, Europe, Asia, Australia, Latin America and Africa for about a decade, winning numerous titles, she was set for the biggest race of her life – marriage.
The Nigerian Olympic silver medalist would then tie the knot with her lover, former footballer, Igho Jude Otegheri in 2014 at an elaborate wedding ceremony which was attended by family, celebrity friends and loved ones in Delta State. Apparently over the moon, Okagbare shortly after the ceremony gushed about her wedding. But then the US embassy in Abuja rocked the boat for the African sprint queen. Okagbare and her footballer husband had planned to move to Los Angeles where the double sprint 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medalist is based. But Otegheri was denied a visa, something that left Okagbare distraught and confused.
Shortly after it was restored, he joined her in the States. However six years after the matrimony, they are set to go their separate ways amid allegations of infidelity, laziness and other irreconcilable differences. Reports have it that the Olympian initiated the divorce proceeding. Though as tradition demands, her family is yet to return the bride price to her estranged husband’s family. And when the three-time capped Super Eagles and former Heartland FC of Owerri player was reached to comment on the divorce saga, he said “she has said all the stories, I don’t have anything to say. I leave everything to God. Thank you.”
Pre-wedding in 2014, Okagbare, in an interview, had disclosed how they met some years back at the peak of her career. “He is someone I knew through a friend and we were not really talking, but something happened and we got talking and that was it. I actually liked him as a friend before I left and we were talking as friends on the phone and I was not really surprised when he asked me out. But you know I had to bid my time even though I was very happy that he asked me out.
“We are women; we need to do a bit of delay tactics before accepting proposals. He is someone I really want to be with because he is nice and God fearing. Those were some basic things I prayed for in a man. He is kind and that is a great thing for me because he supports my life, my career and my aspirations. I couldn’t say no because he has all what I prayed for in my ideal man. One thing about relationships is that you need a person that understands and tolerates you both in your good and bad times.
“He is someone that really cherishes me for who I am and not the fame I have got. He is someone that looks at your inner beauty and wants to help you grow. He supports my dreams and pushes me to hit my targets. He came and I couldn’t say no. He is a very easygoing person and he does not see me as Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare, but as the woman he loves and I love it. Most times he forgets that I’m Blessing Okagbare and sometimes I get upset (laughing) I’m just kidding. That is a very great thing because a lot of people just put the whole ‘Blessing Okagbare thing’ on their head and that pisses me off.”
The union of both athletes was such that attracted interest and the attention of critics afterwards. The Beijing Olympics was around the corner. Okagbare had promised much within that period. And the media closed in on her. She had told a national daily that tying the knot would not affect her plans for the Rio 2016 Olympics and other athletics events. “Getting married won’t in any way stop me from doing the usual things on the track,” Okagbare enthused. “I have been looking forward to this moment and by the Grace of God, we will celebrate it with everything.”
Continuing she said: “But one thing I want to assure my fans and all Nigerians is that I will continue to work hard to put smiles on their faces as long as my body allows me to run and jump on the track. There is a lot of work to be done and I have started training well ahead. I will return to the track soon after my wedding and I pray God to continue to guide me and my husband as we commence the journey of our married life.” Two years into their marriage in 2016, the Olympian declared her heartthrob as her greatest achievement.
The Commonwealth Games record holder had thus written on her Facebook status: “Glory! It is another special day for us. Two years ago God blessed me with my greatest achievement Igho Otegheri and, I can’t thank Him enough for how far He has brought us.” She added: “Thank you heavenly Father for your steadfast love that never ceases, thank you Lord for the peace and love we have enjoyed and shared as couple, above all, we thank you Lord that we are still standing by your grace. Happy Wedding Anniversary to us.”
As it would turn out, Okagbare had a disappointing show at 2016 Rio Olympics, finishing without a single medal. By 2018, all sorts of matrimonial issues started cropping up between Okagbare and her man. A source said this was compounded by the fact that Otegheri could not settle down properly in the U.S., in terms of getting a good job. The sources added that some family members and friends did not help matters with “unnecessary interference.”
Another source added: “Things got really very bad last year between the hitherto lovebirds, with persistent squabble and Okagbare decided that she could no longer continue with the relationship.”
Eventually, when the divorce process is completed, Okagbare who has done extremely well in international competitions, attempting world records and putting herself in the gold medal position, would have put her name in the divorce record as one celebrity who raced to the end of her marriage without her once cherished partner.