Nigeria’s queen of the tracks Blessing Okagbare yesterday claimed her seventh All-Nigeria Championships 100m title with a time of 11.02 secs on the opening day of this year’s edition of Championships in Sapele, Delta State.
Okagbare, who was conspicuously missing during last year’s Championships in Warri, left no one in doubt that she was back to wrestle away her title from last year’s winner Gloria Asumnu when she effortlessly won her semi-final race with a time of 11.22secs.
Yesterday’s feat by Okagbare is her season’s best, and she quickly told journalists after her victory that she will not rest on her oars as she expects tougher contest in Rio Olympics.
“I am focused on myself, I am not thinking of what others are doing,” Okagbare stated.
Peace Ukoh came second with 11.37sec while Gloria Asumnu finished third with 11.38secs to complete the women’s 100m top three.
Aside Okagbare, another headline performance on the opening day of the Nigeria Olympic trials came from Antwon Hicks who sets a new national record (subject to ratification by the AFN) in the men’s 110m hurdles event.
Hicks’ winning time of 13.27 secs erased the previous record held by Williams Erese who set a time 13.42secs in the United States in 2003.
The winning time has also qualified the former American runner for the Rio Olympics where he will be donning the colours of Nigeria in Rio Games.
Speaking with journalists after the race, Hicks said he felt very relieved to now have the Olympic standard after a couple of unsuccessful attempts.
“All year, I have been beating it (the standard) but it didn’t count because the results have been windy, this was one of my last races to get it done and I am happy I have done just that and also set a new national record. Am pretty sure this time will be among the top 20 times in the world at the moment,” Hicks said.
In today’s events, a keen contest is also expected in male’s race where Divine Oduduru and Egwero Ogho-Oghene already wet the appetite of fans with their 10.23 wining times in their respective heats yesterday.
Defending champion Seyi Ogunelwe also won his heat but with a slower time of 10.25secs.
In some of the other events held yesterday, Deborah Pam of NSDC won the 5,000 with 17.23.50, Olumidi Aderonke and Nuhu Elizabeth came second and third with a time of 17.38.06 and 17.44.20 secs respectively.
In the men’s version, Emmanuel Gyang won in a time of 14.52.75secs while the duo of Stephen Joshua and Solomon Yilbam came second and third respectively.
In the Women’s Discuss, Nwanneka Okwelogu finished tops with her throw of 52.93m.
In the women’s 800m final, Ihekandu Philomena was first with her time of 2.06.98secs while Lagos athlete Alabi Aminat was 2nd with a time of 2.10.66secs and Linda Friday came third posting a time of 2.11.05 secs.
Hamadjan Soudi claimed the top spot in the men’s 800m race; finishing with a time of 1.49.80secs.
As widely expected, favourites for the 400m women’s event, George Patience Okon and Regina George won their heats and will be going head-on in today’s final.
The 2016 All-Nigeria Championships is serving as Olympic trial to be used in selecting Team Nigeria to the Rio Olympics.