Archive | September, 2014

Africa’s Jelks to battle Asia’s Ogunode and Europe’s Dasaolu in the 100m @ Continental Cup!

10 Sep

Competing in the 100m at the forthcoming IAAF Continental Cup slated to hold in Marrakech, Morocco between September 13th and 14th is a dream come true for Nigeria Champion, Mark Jelks as he gets set to make a third appearance for Nigeria on the international scene.

 Jelks was thrust into national reckoning in June this year when he switched allegiance from the US to Nigeria, after being recruited by the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) to run for the country. He raced to his first Nigerian title at the National Trials in Calabar, after which he made his debut appearance at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. He ran a time of 10.28s to win his heat and eventually qualified for the final in 10.13s, where he placed a commendable 5th place.

At the African Athletics Championships in Marrakech a week later. Jelks dominated his heat in 10.41s and his semi in 10.16s, while teammates Ogho-Oghene Egwero and Monzavous Edwards also sailed through to the final. While he lowered his Season’s Best (SB) to 10.07s in the final, it was only good enough for Silver as he was upstaged by the man of the tournament, Cote d’Ivoire’s Hua Wilfried Koffi who sprinted to the African title with a Personal Best (PB) and National Record (NR) of 10.05s. 

Koffi also added the 200m title to his kitty two days later with another NR of 20.25s, making him the third man in the competition’s history to win the African sprint double, after Victor Omagbemi (1992) and Namibia’s Frankie Fredericks (2002).

The men’s 100m race in Marrakech is expected to be a close one as Jelks (world No. 35 this year) partners with the Ivoirian (No. 28) to neutralize the onslaught of the Americas team led by the world’s second fastest man in 2014, Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago (9.82s) and USA’s Michael Rodgers (9.91s) who is No.4 in the IAAF 2014 Rankings.

Newly crowned European champion, James Dasaolu (No. 16), who has an SB of 10.00s, will be joined by predecessor, Christophe Lemaitre who is 46th on the rankings with a time of 10.10s. Nigerian-born Femi Ogunode, who switched allegiance to Qatar in 2009, jointly occupies the 28th spot with Koffi (10.05s). His team mate is China’s Zhang Peimeng.

Going by current form, one might suggest that Rodgers is slight favourite in the pack to take victory, but this race is certainly wide open. Can Africa’s finest, Koffi and Jelks, go under 10 seconds and get on the podium? Jelks has dipped inside 10s (9.99s) just once in his career when competing for Team USA, and would hope to do so once more in the colours of Team Nigeria! For African Champion Koffi, it would be entirely new territory…

The IAAF Continental Cup will be taking place in Marrakech, Morocco THIS WEEKEND (Sept 13th & 14th), and Mark Jelks & Hua Koffi Wilfried will be representing Team Africa in the men’s 100m on Saturday Sept 13th at 8.50pm!

Day 1 is LIVE on SuperSport 2 from 6.20-10.10pm. Day 2 is LIVE on SuperSport 6 from 5.20-9.10pm!

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Chinwe Okoro set to represent Team Africa in discus and shot put @ Continental Cup!

9 Sep

National discus champion, Chinwe Okoro, who won the African title last month with a Personal Best (PB) and Championship Record (CR) of 59.79m, will represent Team Africa at the IAAF Continental Cup in Marrakech in both the discus and shot put, after also getting an African Championship medal in the latter – a Silver. 

It was a 1-2 for Nigeria at the discus event at the Africa Championships, as teammate Nwanneka Okwelogu followed with 51.66m, but Morocco’s Amina Elmoudeen, who placed 3rd with a throw of 48.21m will be Okoro’s teammate at the Continental Cup on September 13 and 14, as two people of the same nation cannot represent the continent in the same event.

Speaking after her victory in Marrakech, Chinwe made no secret of the fact that she hopes to send more records tumbling in the near future: “It was my best performance, and my next goal is to realize the best record in the next competitions,” she said. Okoro’s throw in Marrakech makes her 42nd in the world this year, and she will be looking to break that 60m barrier at the Continental Cup!

The woman to beat will undoubtedly be reigning European, World and Olympic champion, Sandra Perkovic (SB 71.08m), who won the 2014 Diamond Race, after dominating all but one of the seven meets for the discus. The world leader, along with France’s Melina Robert-Michon (world No. 12 with 65.51m) make up Team Europe. 

The duo of Gia Lewis-Smallwood (No. 2 with 69.17s) and Yaime Perez (No. 8 with 66.03m) will represent Team Americas, while Dani Samuels of Australia (No. 3 with 67.99m) and China’s Yang Yanbo (No. 20 with 63.31m) complete the field for Team Asia.

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In the shot put, Valerie Adams will be the woman to beat. She is the reigning world indoor and outdoor, Commonwealth and Olympic Champion, as well as defending champion of the Continental Cup. Adams won the Diamond Race last week in Brussels with a world lead of 20.59m. She and World No.4, Gong Lijiao of China (19.65m) are representing the Asia-Pacific.

Christina Schwanitz (No. 2) and Evgeniia Kolodko (No. 5) will compete for Team Europe, having made throws of 20.22m and 19.52m respectively this year. Schwanitz is the reigning European champion and silver medallist at the last World Indoor and outdoor championships. USA’s Michelle Carter (No. 3) with an SB of 19.80m and Cleopatra Borel of Trinidad and Tobago (No. 7) complete the field.

Okoro goes to the competition with an SB of 16.40m in the shot put, and is 108th in the world this year, while teammate and African Champion, Cameroun’s Auriol Sally Dongo (16.48m) is 76th in the world. Okoro freely admits that the discus is her preferred event, as such the African pair will no doubt benefit from the exposure that comes with competing against a top notch field!

The IAAF Continental Cup will be taking place in Marrakech, Morocco THIS WEEKEND (Sept 13th and 14th) and Chinwe Okoro will be representing Team Africa in the women’s discus on Saturday Sept 13th from 7.50pm and the shot put on Sunday Sept 14th from 6.30pm.

Day 1 is LIVE on SuperSport 2 from 6.20-10.10pm. Day 2 is LIVE on SuperSport 6 from 5.20-9.10pm!

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African Champion ABUGAN seeks perfect finish to 2014 season in 400m @ Continental Cup!

9 Sep

The 2014 season has been an outstanding one for Folashade Abugan, and she would be aiming to end the season on a high by adding a medal to her individual collection at the IAAF Continental Cup in Marrakech this weekend.

Her first medal for the season was a bronze with the 4x400m team at the IAAF World Relays; then came individual GOLD in the Nigerian Trials in Calabar where she denied teammate Regina George a hattrick of titles. She won a silver medal in the relays at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and then claimed GOLD in the individual 400m at last month’s African Championships in Marrakech, before anchoring the Nigerian team to a fourth consecutive African 4x400m title. 

A Nigerian domination had already been in the works as Defending Champion and favourite, Amantle Montsho, was ruled out of the competition after failing a dope test in Glasgow, and Abugan took the opportunity with both hands as she dominated from her very first race of the championship, taking victory in her heat in 52.09s. Team mate Patience Okon-George won Heat 2 in 51.55s while Ada Benjamin also impressed in Heat 3 with a lifetime best of 51.55s.

And though Nigerian fans had anticipated a 1-2-3 in the final, Zambia’s Kabange Mupopo put paid to such dreams as she raced Abugan all the way to the finish line, with both athletes posting 51.21s. Abugan took the day via photo finish, while Okon George was third with 51.68s and Benjamin fourth in 52.59s. Interestingly, Mupopo is also the national women’s football team captain for Zambia!

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Speaking after the race, an excited Abugan said, “I am very happy because four years ago I was third but this time around I came first. Being African Champion is no mean feat. The Continental Cup is going to be a tough one because the world’s best athletes would be there, but I know that I will certainly do better there.”

True to her words, she would be meeting world leader, Francena McCorory (SB 49.48s), as well as Commonwealth Games silver medallist & 2014 Diamond Race winner, Novlene Williams-Mills (50.05s), who is 4th fastest in the world this year. The pair is competing for the Americas while the European team features No. 10 in the rankings, Libania Grenot (50.55s) of Italy and Ukraine’s Olha Zemlyak (51.07s) who is No. 20 this year.

Abugan and Mupopo who are joint 21st in the world this year with 51.21s and are ranked higher than the Asain-Pacific duo of Anneliese Rubie (No. 93) and Louise Jones (unranked) that they will also face on Saturday. Even though McCorory has the world leading time this year, she may not be in great form as she finished a distant seventh in the final Diamond League meeting in Brussels last week, meaning that Williams-Mills will likely be the favourite to take the victory for Team Americas. 

Nevertheless, both Abugan and Mupopo will be looking to improve their SBs and go under 51 seconds to get into the mix for medals for Team Africa!

The IAAF Continental Cup will be taking place in Marrakech, Morocco THIS WEEKEND (Sept 13th & 14th), and Folashade Abugan will be representing Team Africa in the women’s 400m on Saturday Sept 13th at 8.10pm!

Day 1 is LIVE on SuperSport 2 from 6.20-10.10pm. Day 2 is LIVE on SuperSport 6 from 5.20-9.10pm – DON’T MISS IT!

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Africa’s Ogoegbunam to face Americas’ Spencer & Asia’s Adekoya in 400m Hurdles @ Continental Cup!

9 Sep

Faster times may just be around the corner for Nigeria’s Amaka Ogoegbunam who will be rubbing shoulders with the world’s best 400m hurdlers when the IAAF Continental Cup gets underway in Marrakech, Morocco on September 13th and 14th

The season has been a long one for the hurdler who came to national prominence at the 2009 National Sports Festival (NSF) where she won two gold and a silver medal including the 100m hurdles and 400m hurdles. After having an injury-ravaged 2013, she has featured in most legs of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) Golden League which she dominated, and her efforts paid off after emerging Nigerian Champion at the National Trials in June in Calabar, which earned her a call-up for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

In Glasgow, she qualified for the final where she would have run a Personal Best (PB), but was disqualified along with South Africa’s Wenda Theron Nel. She brushed aside the disappointment with a silver medal winning performance at the African Championships. There, she led her heat in 56.49s, and the final turned out to be a defining moment in Ogoegbunam’s career as she came second behind Nel, clocking a PB of 55.46s, which places her as No.23 in the world this year. The South African is 13th with a time of 54.82s.

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Speaking with Making of Champions after her feat, Amaka gushed: “I feel so happy that I don’t know what to say. I’ve worked so hard this season, and then coming here to run a PB is massive. I am so grateful to God and my coach. I think I’m going to do much better at the Continental Cup; I just have to go and work on my technique because I believe that I can do a 54 low.”

At the Continental Cup, Ogoegbunam will be facing contenders who dominated her event at the Commonwealth Games. Top on the list is Kaliese Spencer who is the reigning Commonwealth Champion, world leader and winner of the Diamond Race Trophy. The Jamaican who comes with a Season’s Best (SB) of 53.41s virtually dominated the event this season, winning six of seven legs in the Diamond League series and amassing a massive 30 points. Spencer will be joined by world No.2, Kori Carter (53.84s) in the Americas team.

The only athlete who vanquished Spencer in the Diamond League this season in the very first race was Bahrain’s Kemi Adekoya, who will also pose a formidable threat representing Team Asia. Adekoya, who switched allegiance to Bahrain under controversial circumstances, is No.7 in the world this year with a time of 54.59s, in the Doha Diamond League meet that she defeated Spencer in May. She will be joined by Australia’s Lauren Wells (world No.29) who finished in fourth place at the Commonwealth Games and has an SB of 55.69s

The European team comprises of formidable opponents as well in the persons of newly crowned European champion and Commonwealth Games silver medallist, Eilidh Child of Team GB who is the fourth fastest athlete this year (54.39s) and Anna Titimets of Ukraine who is sixth in the world this year with 54.56s.

 

The IAAF Continental Cup will be taking place in Marrakech, Morocco THIS WEEKEND (Sept 13th & 14th), and Amaka Ogoegbunam will be representing Team Africa in the women’s 400m Hurdles on Saturday Sept 13th at 7.15pm!

Day 1 is LIVE on SuperSport 2 from 6.20-10.10pm. Day 2 is LIVE on SuperSport 6 from 5.20-9.10pm!

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Chris Morton looking to upset the big names in the 400m Hurdles @ Continental Cup!

8 Sep

The men’s 400m hurdles race at the forthcoming IAAF Continental Cup slated to hold in Marrakech between September 13 and 14 will be one to remember for Nigeria’s Chris Morton, as he goes against the world’s top 2 in this event, which will likely be the stiffest competition he has faced since representing Nigeria at the London Olympics. 

The Nigerian title holder, who currently sits at No.18 on the IAAF 2014 rankings for 400m Hurdles, arrived last month’s African Championships as defending champion and rekindled his rivalry with Cornel Fredericks, having faced the South African barely a week earlier at the Commonwealth Games where the latter won GOLD, while he settled for fifth in 49.65s.

Morton finished second in Marrakech as he was dethroned by Fredericks who posted 48.78s to win the event. However, the Nigerian hurdler and former NCAA champion was not far behind, as he broke the 49s barrier for the first time this season, clocking 48.92s to win silver and securing a continental ticket in the process, while Kenya’s Nicholas Bett finished third with 49.03s. Morton’s teammate, Miles Ukaoma placed sixth in 50.40s.

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The men’s field at the Continental Cup is STACKED with the world’s best including Olympic bronze medallist and World No. 1, Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson (SB 48.03s) and America’s Michael Tinsley (No.2) who has a Season’s Best (SB) of 48.25s. The pair would be representing the Americas team while the European contenders are Rasmus Magi (No.5 with 48.54s) and Kariem Hussein (No. 10 with 48.70s). Japan’s Takayuki Kishimoto (No. 42, 49.49s) and Michael Cochrane complete the field as the Asia-Pacific representatives.

The race is an unpredictable one, going by Frederick’s impressive runs this season. He finished third behind Coulson and Tinsley in the New York and Lausanne legs of the Diamond League and second in Paris. He capped an impressive season with victory at the Zurich Diamond League less than two weeks ago where he posted an SB of 48.25s, the world’s third fastest time this year, with Tinsley (48.31s) and Culson (48.53s) trailing in his wake. 

It was Tinsley who emerged the Diamond League winner with 21 points from three victories, three second place finishes and one third, while Culson was second in the final rankings with 17 points. As such, Nigeria’s Morton will do well to attain a podium appearance in Marrakech, but he an Fredericks make up a formidable Team Africa to go against Team America’s Top 2 in the world. Who knows, an upset might just be in the offing!

The IAAF Continental Cup will be taking place in Marrakech, Morocco THIS WEEKEND (Sept 13th & 14th), and Chris Morton will be representing Team Africa in the men’s 400m Hurdles on Saturday Sept 13th at 7pm!

Day 1 is LIVE on SuperSport 2 from 6.20-10.10pm. Day 2 is LIVE on SuperSport 6 from 5.20-9.10pm!

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with ESE BRUME, Nigerian, African & Commonwealth Long Jump CHAMPION!

8 Sep

ESE BRUME, recently crowned Nigerian, African & Commonwealth Long Jump Champion, speaks EXCLUSIVELY to MAKING OF CHAMPIONS on her recent successes and her career so far! We caught up with her in Morocco just after she won the African Crown and qualified to represent Team Africa at the upcoming IAAF Continental Cup!

First of all congratulations! How do you feel about your victories, firstly at the Commonwealth Games and now at the African Championships?

Thank you. I feel good. I’m happy that at least I have made my country and family proud.

Was it expected? Were you expecting to win?

Yes, sure. I was expecting it.

How did you get started in athletics?

I started in secondary school. I had to represent Delta at the National School Sports Festival (NSSF). That was in 2008 though I wasn’t as serious. I came second in the long jump. I stopped for a while but then my present coach, Mr. Kayode Yaya had to take me from my parents to Benin where he started training me.

So where in Delta are you from?

Ughelli South.

So what was it like leaving your family and moving to Benin. Was it hard?

Not really, because I used to visit home frequently, every weekend.

How many years have you been training in Benin now?

For two and a half years.

You won the last National Sports Festival in 2012. What was your distance then? How did it feel to win your first big title?

Good! I was like, ‘So I can actually make it’. I was surprised.

So was that the moment you knew that you could actually make it as an athlete?

Yes. That and the National Trials last year where I came second behind Blessing Okagbare with a jump of 6.53m.

What is your Personal Best?

That is 6.68m which I did at the National Trials this year. I won the title.

What happened at the World Junior Championships, when you were only able to record one valid jump of 5.18m and could not reach the final? Were you disappointed?

Actually I didn’t get my run up so it was just a bad day. I wasn’t disappointed, I just felt that maybe God was preparing me for something bigger.

When you got to the Commonwealth Games, where you thinking ‘I’ve got something to prove’, to put that performance behind you and do something better?

Yes. I told myself that I had to tell the federation and everyone that it was about my run up. I wanted to prove everyone wrong, because everyone was like ‘What was wrong with me?’ I was the world leader and all of a sudden I came last. I had to turn to God and put Him first and He did it.

At the Commonwealth Games you qualified for the final in 12th position. At that point were you thinking that you could still win the gold medal?

Yes! All I was thinking at that moment was for me to qualify because I knew that once I qualified, I would be left with six jumps.

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So which athletes inspire you? Who do you look up to?

Blessing Okagbare. She is good, she’s got good character and she’s doing fine. She’s hardworking; she sprints and jumps well. I also want to sprint like her.

So you would like to follow her footsteps and switch from long jump to the sprints?

Yes. Sometimes she talks to me and tutors me. I just want to be like her.

You sprinted in the Nigerian Golden League this season, where you ran 11.8 seconds. How did that feel, going out there to sprint?

It felt cool, but I’m not that fast. I have to work harder at it.

So you train during the week and then go home at weekends?

I don’t go home like that again. That was then.

So what about your education? What is the plan for you? Are you looking to go to University in Nigeria or abroad? What’s the plan?

I have not decided yet.

If you get a good school and scholarship abroad, will you follow in Blessing’s footsteps and go?

I can’t say for now. I’m still thinking about it.

Apart from Blessing, are there any other sports personalities that you like? 

I like Allyson Felix. I love the way she sprints. She’s really good and very graceful.

What do you do in your spare time? Do you enjoy watching movies, listening to music or anything else? 

I’m not a movie freak, though I like Korean movies. I like music but I can’t sing. I love blues. I love Celine Dion and Toni Braxton. I like Mariah Carey.

But these are old school. Don’t you like any more current artists, maybe some hip-hop or rap?

The only rap artiste I like is Eminem.

What kind of music do you listen to when you are training?

It’s not allowed in my gym.

For how long do you train daily?

It depends on the training programme. Sometimes three hours, other times four, but the maximum is four hours. We train twice a day, like two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening.

How do you spend the rest of your day?

Sometimes I watch movies or read novels or just visit my team mates but not frequently. It’s a rare occurrence. I like Shakespeare.

Hope not Mills & Boons?

(Laughter)

How many days do you train in a week?

Five days. We don’t train during weekends so that we have time to recover.

 Your parents must be very proud of you. How did they allow your coach to take you to Benin to go and train?

They were very supportive and they are part of my inspiration. They encouraged me from an early age.

What do your parents do?

My mother is a teacher and my father is a teacher.

They always believed that you will be a star? 

Right from when I was in secondary school, even when I was in primary school though I wasn’t among the best then. But when I was in secondary school I was doing well so they pushed me in that direction.

What will you say about Nigerian parents who would not want their children to do sports?

It’s good for them to give their kids the opportunity if they have the talent.

So what’s next for you now since you’ve won almost everything? You are National Champion, Commonwealth Champion, African Champion?

I’m looking forward to doing better at the IAAF Continental Cup where I will represent the continent and then after that, the National Sports Festival.

What are your hopes regarding the Olympics, World Championships. You’ve not been to either so what are your hopes for representing Nigeria at the highest level?

My dream is to become the world’s best so I know that for the World Championships, I will be on the medals table because I should be doing much better before then. If not the GOLD, I will be on the medals table.

Have you talked to your coach about sprinting? Is that in your plan for the next few years?

It’s for next season. My coach says I will start then.

Well, we wish you the best of luck and will look out for you at the World Championships and Olympics in the Long Jump, and maybe soon in the sprints!

Thank you.

The IAAF Continental Cup will be taking place in Marrakech, Morocco THIS WEEKEND (Sept 13th & 14th), and Ese Brume will be representing Team Africa in the women’s Long Jump on Sunday Sept 14th from 7.40pm.

Day 1 is LIVE on SuperSport 2 from 6.20-10.10pm. Day 2 is LIVE on SuperSport 6 from 5.20-9.10pm!

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Okagbare finishes 6th in 200m, while Gatlin, Barshim steal the limelight as curtains fall on 2014 Diamond League

5 Sep

Blessing Okagbare’s campaign in the 2014 IAAF Diamond League ended in an anti-climax as the Commonwealth double sprint champion posted her slowest time in the series in Brussels , placing sixth in the 200m in 22.60s and missing out on the $50,000 at stake in the process.

Olympic champion, Allyson Felix could not be denied as she dominated the field with a world lead of 22.02s, which was 0.01s faster than the former time set by Dafne Schippers in last month’s European Championships. Prior to the event, the American was leading the rankings with 13 points, while Okagbare followed with 11 points, and the 200m was meant to be a two horse race between the pair.

And though the Nigerian enjoyed a good start, it was Felix who clearly led the rest of the field as they came off the bend, providing the perfect impetus for French athlete, Myriam Soumaré, who set a Personal Best of 22.11s, to trail in her wake, while Schippers finished in third with 22.30s. In the final standings, Felix soared above the rest with a massive 21 points, while Blessing followed with 11 points and Schippers with 6 points. 

Okagbare would have needed to go faster than Mary Onyali’s African Record of 22.07s to have any chance of winning, but she would have needed to finish ahead of Felix and possibly break 22 seconds to take the Diamond League Trophy – she is still waiting for the first one of her career. That said, it has been an eventful season for Okagbare whose final stop for 2014 will be at the IAAF Continental Cup, where she is expected to feature in the 100m and anchor the women’s 4x100m. She set a 200m Personal Best of 22.23s in Oregon, claimed the sprint double at the Commonwealth Games with a CR of 10.85s in the 100m and 20.25s in the 200m, and then regained the African title in the shorter sprint as well, in 11 seconds flat!

The standout athlete of the evening was Justin Gatlin, whose exploits were unrivalled, as he blew away the rest if the field in a scintillating fashion to claim the sprint double with ease. He claimed the 100m with a world lead of 9.77s, ahead of Michael Rodgers (9.93s) and Asafa Powell (9.95s), while team mate, Tyson Gay finished in sixth place  with 10.01s. Less than an hour later he sprinted to the 200m crown in 19.71s, while Qatar’s Femi Ogunode was second in 20.15s and Alonso Edward in third with 20.26s.

Qatar’s Essa Mutaz Barshim was outstanding in the final leg of the Diamond League High Jump, as he made two attempts at the World Record (WR) in the men’s high jump (2.46), before settling for a world lead, Area Record (AR), Meeting Record (MR) and second best jump of all time with his leap of 2.43m, with fierce rival, European champion and record holder, Bohdan Bondarenko coming second in 2.40m, after unsuccessfully attempting a shot at the WR himself.

Another $50,000 up for grabs, as Okagbare chases 200m African Record & Diamond League Trophy!

4 Sep

Final stop…Brussels. The 2014 IAAF Diamond League series will wind off with an explosive second final in Brussels on September 5th, with Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare as one of the top contenders for the women’s 200m race, which is one of the 16 events scheduled to hold on Friday.

The first final took place last week in Zurich, Switzerland where Okagbare narrowly missed the highly coveted $50,000 prize money in the women’s 100m ($10,000 for the Zurich win, and $40,000 for the overall 100m Diamond Race trophy in 2014), finishing third in 11.06s behind Veronica Campbell-Brown and Murielle Ahouré who both posted 11.04s in a photo finish, in the absence of world leader, Tori Bowie who bowed out due to injury. Instead, Blessing only got $4,000 for her 3rd place in that race, emphasising the fine margins in this sport – 0.03s faster in Zurich would have made her $46,000 richer!

She would be seeking to make amends this time around, but will have to battle Allyson Felix and Dafne Schippers for the 200m in Brussels, and it will be her fifth 200m in the Diamond League series this year (after Shanghai, Eugene, Paris and Glasgow). Both Felix and Schippers beat Okagbare to the line in the Glasgow leg, so she will be wary of the threat they both pose. The only other woman to beat her over 200m this season is Bowie, but she is out due to injury, meaning that only Okagbare or Felix can still win the 200m Diamond Race trophy:

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Standings before FINAL race (Brussels). Diamond League competitors get 4 points for a win,2 points for 2nd place, and 1 point for 3rd, but these points are DOUBLED for the final race!

Felix, who has a Season’s Best (SB) of 22.34s, currently tops the Diamond League standings with 13 points, while Okagbare follows closely with 11 points. The Nigerian, who has concentrated majorly on the 200m this season and posted an SB of 22.23s in Eugene, had dominated the event in the Diamond League, prior to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and African Championships in Marrakech. However she conceded her lead to Felix, having missed out of the Stockholm leg of the series. 

Okagbare would also have to contend with Schippers, the world leader in the event, and the only woman to get anywhere close to breaking 22 seconds this season. The Dutch athlete stormed to the European sprint double title with a National Record (NR) of 22.03s in the 200m and 11.12s in the 100m. She won the Glasgow leg of the race and occupies fourth position in the rankings with four points. Other athletes competing in the event include American duo Joanna Atkins (22.27s) and Jeneba Tarmoh (22.41s), Team GB’s Jodie Williams (22.46s) and Anthonique Starchan (22.50s) of the Bahamas.

This final race of the season could see the first sub-22 in the 200 metres since Allyson Felix performed the feat to win Olympic GOLD at London 2012. Blessing, in her exclusive interview with MAKING OF CHAMPIONS during the African Championships in Marrakech, revealed that she wants to break Mary Onyali’s 200m African Record (22.07s) this season, and this would be her last chance to do it! She may have to do that and more, given the form that Schippers is in this season!

Permutations

With only 4 points from her win in Glasgow, Schippers is not in contention for the 200m Diamond Race Crown and $40,000 prize money. It’s a two-way fight between Okagbare and Felix. Blessing will need to finish ahead of Allyson and get some points on the board to win the trophy. Points are doubled in this final race (1st, 2nd & 3rd get 8, 4 and 2 points respectively), so if Okagbare is second and Felix is third, they will both finish on 15 points. By “count back” they will still be tied as they have TWO victories apiece this season, and so Blessing will win the trophy on the final tie-break criteria – the better result in this race!

Same would apply if Okagbare is third – Felix must finish behind her for both of them to finish on 13 points, and for Blessing to win the trophy. In short, even in Schippers wins on the night, Okagbare can still win the Diamond Race, but it’s certainly advantage Felix as she has more points on the board currently!

The Diamond Race champions of eight of the 16 events have already been decided, though the athletes must compete in their discipline in Brussels to secure the $40,000 bonus and Diamond Trophy. They are Pascal Martinot-Lagarde (110 Hurdles), Novlene Williams-Mills (400m), Jairus Birech (3000m steeplechase), Eunice Sum (800m), Renaud Lavillenie (Pole vault), Kaliese Spencer (400m Hurdles), Caterine Ibarguen (Triple Jump) and Valerie Adams (Shot put).

Former Nigerian athlete, Femi Ogunode (20.06s) of Qatar will be competing in the 200m which is not a Diamond League event, and he will go against African 400m champion and silver medallist in the 200m, Isaac Makwala (19.96s), world leader Justin Gatlin (19.68s), Christophe Lemaitre (20.08s) and Alonso Edward (19.84s).

In the women’s 400m hurdles, Bahrain’s Kemi Adekoya (54.59s) who controversially switched from competing for Nigeria to Bahrain this year, will be competing against the fastest woman in the event this year, Kaliese Spencer (53.41s), whose presence already guarantees her the trophy and $40,000 bonus. The Jamaican tops the standings with a whopping 22 points and has been impressive all season. African champion, Wenda Theron (54.82s) will also be in action.

(Athletes’ SBs are in brackets)

The Zurich Diamond League will be shown LIVE on SuperSports 2 from 7-9pm on Friday, with Blessing’s 200m race at 8.04pm SHARP! YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS THIS!

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