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Nigerian athlete, Okagbare sets new 100m games record

The fastest woman in Africa is now the fastest woman in the Commonwealth. Blessing Okagbare backed up a series of scintillating runs at Hampden Park to claim a stunning Commonwealth Games 100 metres title ahead of Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown and Kerron Stewart last Monday night.

The Nigerian, who had gone in as the pre-race favourite, stormed away from the field at the gun and beat off a dogged effort from Campbell-Brown to prevail in a Commonwealth Games record of time of 10.85 sec, almost two-tenths of a second ahead of the Jamaicans.

The final had long been earmarked as a battle between Okagbare and the Jamaican trio of Campbell-Brown, Stewart and Schillonie Calvert. In the end, the relaxed Nigerian powered past the Jamaican trio who finished second and third in 11.03secs and 11.07secs, in the last 50m.

Sandwiched between the three of them in lane five, Okagbare’s bright dyed blonde hair seemed to be boldly taunting her rivals on the startline, acting as a beacon for them to chase. Catch me if you can.

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The Nigerian had already marked herself out as an inconspicuous target earlier in the evening with an utterly dominant semi-final performance. 

Not since the Victoria Games of 1994 – when Mary Onyali and Christy Opara-Thompson completed a one-two – had Nigeria been represented on the Commonwealth medal podium in the women’s 100m. Yet ahead of her first Commonwealth appearance, Okagbare had confidently announced her plan was “to come back with two medals” in the 100m and 200m sprint events.

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Almost a year to the day after setting an African record of 10.79 sec, the 25-year-old had done everything to suggest she would consign her nation’s plight to the history books, barely breaking a sweat in the build-up and qualifying fastest for the final in a season’s best time of 10.93 sec. 

She is now looking forward to the 200m and the long jump events.