Blessing and the Asafa Powell Syndrome…

12 Aug

If Blessing Okagbare delighted Nigerians yesterday with the nation’s first World Championship medal since 1999, the 100 metre final today was to end in disappointment for Blessing and the millions of Nigerians who would have tuned into the race to see if she could possibly challenge the mercurial Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce for the title, as she had been threatening to all season. Unfortunately for Blessing, she finished a disappointing sixth in a performance quite reminiscent of her eighth place finish in the Olympic 100m Finals last year. Similar to last year, Blessing came into the big championship after a great season that set her apart as a serious medal contender in the 100m. This season her performances have been even more emphatic than the last – when you think that in every single one of her races this season over the 100m, she finished in either 1st or 2nd position, only losing to Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (but getting closer to her with each race), one could have been forgiven for quietly hoping that she could upset the diminutive Jamaican in Moscow. Certainly Blessing was a shoe-in for at least the Silver medal, especially after breaking the African record twice in one day, with 10.86s and 10.79s runs in the space of 90 minutes at the London Anniversary Games two weeks ago. If she had reproduced either of those runs she would be the silver medalist right now…

So what went wrong for Blessing? Was it that the long jump competition yesterday took a lot out of her, so she couldn’t produce her best 100m today? Did she pick up a knock of some sort from the long jump? Her 100m rounds seemed like she was running well within herself and conserving her energy for the final, so how come she could not produce the goods when it mattered the most? Everyone who watches women’s sprinting at the moment will know that Blessing is not the greatest starter and will not be at the front of the race after 50 or 60 metres, but much like Christine Ohuruogu in the 400 metres (congratulations to her on the win today!), she will catch all the other girls before the line, unless they get a start like Shelly-Ann did today. For Blessing, after 50 or 60 metres today, she was exactly where she always is in her races at that stage, but at that point she seemed to drop her head – that drive to the line that has become her trademark evaporated. Either the energy just wasn’t there (which I doubt was the case, after seeing how she put those two races she put together at the London Anniversary Games) or perhaps this was because she could see that Shelly-Ann was well ahead and was not going to be caught?

If the latter is the case, then it casts the mind back to Asafa Powell, who went into multiple Olympic Games and World Championships as one of the favourites for GOLD, but often finished with nothing, after more or less giving up during races after realizing that he wasn’t going to win – I reckon that he probably threw away a Silver or Bronze on a couple of occasions because he mentally gave up after realizing he wasn’t going to get the GOLD. Luckily for him, he eventually won a couple of Bronze medals at the World Champs, but there was a 4 year period (for 3 of those years he was the World Record Holder) where he should have won everything available to him before Usain Bolt showed up. Unfortunately for Blessing, after failing to deliver a medal in two consecutive global finals where she had strong prospects, it may take her some time to shake off the tag of someone who doesn’t deliver when it matters the most. She is in that 4-year period where she needs to be wresting the 100m mantle away from the likes of Shelly-Ann and her training partner Carmelita Jeter. Come Rio 2016, who knows how good the young Americans who all made today’s final (English Gardner, Alexandria Anderson and Octavious Freeman) are going to be, and who knows who else is going to show up in women’s sprinting by then. This should have been Blessing’s moment to shine, to strike while the iron is hot…

Blessing Okagbare finishing 8th in the 100m final at London 2012

Blessing Okagbare finishing 8th in the 100m final at London 2012

The London 2012 final would have been disappointing for her, but this one will hurt even more because she will know that if she had executed the way she can, in the form that she’s been in this year, she would be Nigeria’s first ever medalist in the individual 100 metres right now. Now she has to wait 2 years for another opportunity to be in this position, and even if she is the best in the world by then, there will be question marks as to whether she has the temperament for the big moment, until she actually wins a global title or medal in the 100 metres. Luckily for Blessing, she has an immediate chance to put things right for herself later this week in the 200 metres, the event I have always thought is going to be her better event. If Blessing was reading this, I would encourage her to put today behind her very quickly and come out like a wounded lionness for the 200 metres. She will desperately need it now, to immediately put to bed any self-doubt that would be creeping in now about her own ability to deliver on the biggest stage. I still believe that Blessing is going to take Mary Onyali’s 200 metre African Record of 22.07s this week enroute to a medal in that event. All the talk will be about Allyson Felix and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce going head to head for GOLD in that event, but I would urge all Nigerians to put their support fully behind her, so that she can put today’s performance behind her as quickly as possible.

For Nigeria, if anything today has shown, it is that we must STOP relying on only one athlete for Track & Field success by implementing a world-class program at home, that will allow us rival the Americans and Jamaicans on a consistent basis. Jamaica had 4 men in the 100m final yesterday and ended up with 2 medals there, while the US had 4 women in today’s final and finished with one medal. It should be noted that the Afro-Caribbeans and African Americans who currently dominate sprinting are mostly descended from West Africa, so essentially there is a lot more of that same talent they have wasting away in West Africa, where Nigeria should be leading the way with a population of 170 million (compared to Jamaica’s population of just 3 million)! When will Nigeria once again start producing multiple sub-10 men and sub-11 women who can do the country proud consistently on the global stage? Only time will tell!

3 Responses to “Blessing and the Asafa Powell Syndrome…”

  1. Funke Babatola August 13, 2013 at 1:03 am #

    Awww what a shame. It cant be an easy task carrying the hopes of so many Nigerians on her shoulders but the truth is Blessing has to carry her own hopes highest! She must WANT to win like nothing else matters. I believe its possible for her to achieve, but her desire to do so MUST outweigh any fears she may be entertaining. I really do wish her well. She CAN do it

  2. Flo August 14, 2013 at 4:40 am #

    Big shame about the 100m for Blessing! I wish her the best in the 200m. And that was a solid achievement for the long jump.

    Great work Bambo! I know even these documentaries will give Blessing and other aspiring Nigerian athletes the zeal to keep pushing.

    I’m very impressed by what you’ve achieved so far!!


  1. Okagbare ensures Nigeria leaves Moscow with 2 medals; Ahoure does same for Cote d’Ivoire | Making of Champions - August 18, 2013

    […] metres – I am extremely happy for her that she won that Bronze in the 200 metres and put to bed any suggestions that even I had prematurely raised about her not performing when it mattered the mos…. This lady is truly a Championship performer, and her 2 medals from 3 events in a packed week is […]

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