Nigeria: Olympics Is Important to My Career – Okagbare

Leadership (Abuja)

Isiaku Kigbu

2 January 2012

Long jump bronze medallist in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, Blessing has said she is full of high hopes for this season. She said she is not full of expectations because it’s an Olympic year but because the year is important to her career. Last year was a difficult one for the athlete as she was down with injury which dampened her expectations. She said:”Last season I wasn’t expecting so much. I had my surgery and also made the transition from the collegiate season to the professional circuit. I wasn’t expecting too much.”

The surgery was to repair a stress fracture to the tibia which meant a winter of rehabilitation rather than that of hard training that sets an athlete up for the summer season. On her training at the moment Okagbare said it is going on smoothly: “It’s going well. Infact, pretty decent really. Right now I’m doing long runs, power lifting and technical work.”

Last season was not a complete write-off as she performed creditably in the 100m in the World Championships in Daegu, finishing fifth. But says: “I was really trying to get myself back into shape. I wasn’t going to go super fast.” She followed that up with long jump gold and 100m silver at the 2011 All-African Games in Maputo. The gold medal in the AAG and the Olympic bronze she won in Beijing could have meant long jump is her specialty and her manager Paul Doyle believes she could become the best in the world if she concentrates on the jump even though she doesn’t see that as her focus in an Olympic year. “I’m enjoying sprinting right now, but it can be a combination of both.”

Okagbare has qualified for all three events in London although the timetable suggests she make a choice between the 200m and long jump. “I’ve had three coaches in four years. There’ve been a few changes in my life but I’ve been able to deal with it. John Smith is a very good coach. I’m not saying other coaches I’ve worked with are not good but I really think we can work together as coach and athlete. I want to get better, that’s my goal. When I went down to see what he does I was pleased with what I saw. I’m aiming really high. I wasn’t sure about getting to the final of the world championship but I did and that was a huge one for me. I know it’s going to be hard and tough. I’m here to push for the top three. If I get it that’s it, if I don’t there’s 2016.”

On the pressure from Nigeria to perform in the Olympics, she said: “When I went to the first Olympics I was young and a bit naïve. It was when I went out for qualifying and got to the final (that it hit home). It’s different, yet similar to the World Championship but different to a Commonwealth or African Championship. It’s a world event and you’re competing with the best people in the world, but it does differ for individuals.”

AllAfrica – All the Time

More News on