By Christian Okpara, with agency report
• African champion comes last in women 100m
As it has always been the case in major championships where much is expected of the Nigerian champion, Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor once again failed to rise to the occasion at the on-going IAAF Athletics World Championship at the Bird Nest Stadium, Beijing, China.
In a field filled with some of the stars Okagbare-Ighoteguonor has been beaten constantly in the past two years, the Nigerian came last out of the eight competitors in the 100 metres women race.
Yesterday’s result was somehow a big shock to Nigerians in Beijing because early in the day, Okagbare-Ighoteguonor had run a good race to place in the semifinal (10.89secs) behind Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who won the heat in 10.82 seconds.
Even during the heats, Okagbare did far better as she won her pool to set up what many of her fans thought would be a happy day. But that was not to be.
Placed ion lane nine, Okagbare-Ighoteguonor could not muster that little extra to match the field in the race won by Fraser-Pryce in 10.76 seconds.
Behind her, former heptathlete, Dafne Schippers, set a second Dutch record of the night for silver in 10.81, edging Tori Bowie of the United States by .05 seconds.
Okagbare was sluggish out of the blocks and could not catch up with any of the other finalists as she finished in a disappointing 11.02 seconds.
If Sunday’s heats gave an inkling into the potential medallists yesterday, these views hardened during three scintillating semi-finals.
The defending champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, was first to lay down a marker to her rivals and looked at her imperious best during the first semi-final.
The Jamaican, who has proved the outstanding sprinter of her generation, set the tone from the gun and flashed across the line in 10.82, within 0.04 of the fastest time ever recorded in a World Championships semi-final in this event, and even appeared to hold something in reserve by turning off the power in the final 10 metres.
Behind her, Okagbare-Ighotegunor put clear daylight between her and the rest of the field to take second in 10.89, 0.15 clear of Ivory Coast’s Marie-Josee Ta Lou, who claimed a shock third place with a PB of 11.04 although the latter just missed out on a place in the final.
There was disappointment for world number two, English Gardner, from the USA. She got away reasonably well but rapidly faded out of contention over the second half of the race and wound up sixth in 11.13.
As at press time, Nigeria had only one woman, Patience Okon-George, remaining in the 400 metres race, as the duo of Regina George and Tosin Adeloye crashed out of the race in the heats.
The women 400 metres will hold this morning.
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