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!

Okagbare rues missed chance in 100m Diamond League Final, seeks redemption in 200m!

30 Aug
The absence of world leader and major contender for the jackpot in the women’s 100m, Tori Bowie at the Zurich leg of the IAAF Diamond League, was meant to be a blessing in disguise (no pun intended) for Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare, but it was Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown who stole the show at the end of the day as she coasted home in 11.04s, to win the $50,000 at stake.

Murielle Ahouré was a close second (also in 11.04s), while Okagbare posted 11.06s in third place in the first series of finals for the Diamond League, which ends with a second series of finals on September 5th in Brussels, where she will be going for the 200m, and where 15 other events would be decided.

Bowie pulled out of the Zurich 100m due to injury she sustained in the Birmingham leg of the meet, which made Zurich a winner takes all affair as anyone who won it could have taken home the 100m Diamond Race crown. Prior to the race, Okagbare occupied 6th place in the 100m standings, and victory in Zurich would have handed her the top prize as long as Kerron Stewart, who occupied 2nd place in the Race with 7 points, did not finish as the runner-up; the Jamaican finished a distant fifth in 11.19s and Blessing would no doubt be ruing her lost chance. A win in the final would have been the African & Commonwealth Champion’s first ever in the Diamond League series.

Okagbare has run more 200m races than 100 this year, as the race in Zurich was only her fourth in the Diamond League. However, she was sensational in the Commonwealth where she claimed the sprint double with a Championship Record (CR) of 10.85s in the 100m, and 22.25s in the 200m. Even though she confessed in Marrakech, venue of the African Senior Championships, that she was already tired and hoping to bring her season to an end in Brussels, she will be hoping to bounce back to take the 200m in Brussels, where she is a top contender for the prize, currently in second place with 11 points, behind Allyson Felix who reached 13 points following the Nigerian’s absence in Stockholm a little over a week ago.

Not only would she have Felix to deal with in Brussels, but also Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands who recently posted a National Record (NR) and world leading time of 22.03s at the European Championships!

Okagbare could win $50,000 with Zurich Diamond League VICTORY, while Usain Bolt ends his 2014 season early!

28 Aug

Next stop…Zurich. Fans of Nigeria’s No.1 sprinting sensation, Blessing Okagbare will have to wait no more as the athlete resumes action at the IAAF Diamond League on Thursday, August 28 in Zurich, Switzerland where she will compete in the 100m in a STACKED field that includes Veronica Campbell-Brown (SB 10.86s), Murielle Ahouré (10.97s) and Allyson Felix (11.01s) amongst others.

Okagbare took a break from the prestigious series to compete in her first Commonwealth Games in Glasgow (July 23 to August 3) where she claimed the 100/200m sprint double. In the 100m, she breasted the tape in the 100m with a Season’s Best (SB) and Championship Record (CR) of 10.85s, denying former world champion, Campbell-Brown a much sought after victory in the event. The Jamaican is yet to win an individual title at the Commonwealth Games, having won two silver medals in the 100m (2002 and 2014) and another in the 200m (2006).

The Nigerian maintained her stellar performance this season by reclaiming her African title in the 100m at the African Senior Championships in Marrakech where she stormed to the crown with a CR of 11.00s flat, also denying fierce rival, Ahouré of Cote d’Ivoire her first African title in the event. Okagbare however pulled out of the 200m, which Ahouré dominated easily with a time of 22.36s.

Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands will be looking to go under 11 seconds for the first time. The Dutchwoman sneaked in a win in the 200m at the Glasgow leg of the series where she stunned Felix (22.35s) and Okagbare (22.41s) to win the title with a National Record (NR) of 22.34s – she has since lowered the Dutch NR to a world leading 22.03s this season at the European Championships! Her 100m PB of 11.03s set in the B race of the Glasgow Diamond League 100m is also a National Record – not bad for a heptathlete! 

This race is only Okagbare’s fourth 100m in the Diamond League this year, and she is yet to secure a victory in the event. She finished second behind Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in the very first meeting in Doha, but didn’t finish her race in Lausanne after she slipped. She placed fourth in Monaco behind Bowie, Campbell-Brown and Ahoure. She occupies a distant sixth place in the standings with just 2 Diamond League points while Tori Bowie sits at the top with 12 points. However Bowie, who has the world leading time of 10.80s this season, will be the only big name missing. She has had to withdraw after pulling up injured in the 100m in the Birmingham Diamond League meet at the weekend.    

The most fascinating aspect of the IAAF Diamond League, are the double points awarded in the final race of each event, with 16 Diamond Races being decided in Zurich, and the final 16 being decided in Brussels next week! This annual twist in events adds to the excitement of the final races, as an athlete currently ranking in third or fourth place, could change their fortunes just by winning the final race. So while a few races are practically over, in many other races, the athletes will battle till the very last second or centimetre!

The rules also state that one must compete in the final race of their event to win the Diamond Race crown, so despite having amassed a near unassailable lead, Bowie’s absence blows the 200m Diamond Race right open, and means that in a dramatic twist of fate, Okagbare could win her FIRST ever Diamond League crown with a WIN, so long as Kerron Stewart, who currently occupies 2nd place in the Race with 7 points, does not finish as the runner-up in Zurich! 

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Standings before FINAL race (Zurich). 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!

1st place in each Diamond League event takes home $10,000 and the overall winner for the Diamond Race in each event each season takes home $40,000. This means that a $50,000 windfall is at stake for Blessing and her rivals in Zurich – every single woman in the race has a mathematical chance of taking home the 200m Diamond Race Crown!

Meanwhile, $50,000 is small change for the likes of Usain Bolt, so he does not compete regularly in the Diamond League, instead prioritising meets that can afford the appearance fees he commands – anywhere from $250,000 per race, up to $500,000 which he received for the London Anniversary Games last year! He has pulled out of the Zurich meet, bringing an early end to his 2014 campaign. Zurich was meant to be the last competition for the Jamaican multiple world and Olympic champion, who clocked 9.98s in Warsaw on Saturday night to set an unofficial 100m indoor record, previously held by Frankie Fredericks in 10.05s – the 100m is never run indoors, but prior to the race Bolt cheekily asked for the stadium roof to be closed to claim the unofficial record! 

It was only Bolt’s second individual and fourth race of an injury-hampered season. His other two outings were at the Commonwealth Games where he made his debut by anchoring the 4x100m team to gold with a CR of 37.58s. It would have been fun to watch Bolt re-ignite his rivalry with former world champion, Tyson Gay (9.93s) of the US who would be attempting the sprint double in Zurich. Nevertheless, the 100m still promises to be exciting, as Gay’s fellow returnee Asafa Powell, who returned a stunning SB of 9.87s a few days ago in Austin, and newly crowned European 100m & 200m Champions, James Dasaolu and Adam Gemili will also be on show!

The Zurich Diamond League will be shown LIVE on SuperSports 2 from 7-9pm on Thursday, with Blessing’s 100m race at 7.59pm SHARP! YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS THIS!

Blessing Okagbare EXCLUSIVE Part III – On the Olympic Treble & On Reviving Nigerian Athletics!

24 Aug

BLESSING OKAGBARE, recently crowned Commonwealth 100m & 200m Champion and African 100m Champion & Record Holder, speaks EXCLUSIVELY to MAKING OF CHAMPIONS on her career, personal life and on Nigerian Athletics! In this FINAL part of the 3-part interview series recorded in Morocco during the African Championships, she speaks on the possibility of attempting an Olympic treble, and shares her thoughts on what it would take to revive Athletics in Nigeria!

So is the Long Jump still your favourite event?

Yes, it is!

What are the chances that you will combine all 3 events – the 100m, 200m and Long Jump at the next World Champs and Olympics?

I will say 70/30 because the schedule is always off, and the long jump exerts more strength on your body, that’s the truth. I worked really really hard but there is something about this whole body. Your mental state can be fine but when the body has shut down, it has shut down. There is nothing you can do than give it the rest that it deserves. I don’t know if the schedule is going to permit me to attempt the triple that I did last year but I would really want to do it, trust me.

Do you think there is a case for you asking them to make the schedule work in your favour? They did it for Michael Johnson and Carl Lewis in the 90s…

They did, so we’ll see how it goes. It’s all politics! (she  laughs) 

How do you feel about Nigerian athletics today? There was a time we used to win a lot of medals on the global stage but now it seems like you are our only individual Olympic medal hope. Do you feel the weight of the whole nation on your shoulders?

No, I used to but like I said I put my priorities straight. If the people who are out there can’t do much to support the sport, this is my career. I have so much passion for what I do, I love Track & Field. I want to enjoy every moment of it. At the same time this is where I earn my living and take care of my family and I have to take care of it. I can’t wait for them; I can’t sit down and expect them to want to do something for me, so that is the difference between the people that are succeeding and those that are not. So if you keep waiting for these people, trust me you are going to be way behind.

Do you think that Track & Field in Nigeria can be revived to rival the likes of USA and Jamaica on the world stage?

No, I don’t think so. I’m not cursing them but it’s going to be really hard, it’s going to be extremely hard. Right now they are doing a lot of recruiting versus building on what they have – it doesn’t make any sense to me, you know, it doesn’t.

So how can we make that revolution in Track & Field happen?

I don’t know, a lot of things have been said in the past but it doesn’t look like they are going to change. They will keeping making the same mistakes and the government will keep changing and new people come. Some people who have no clue about sports will sit there as ministers and so on. First of all you need to find someone who has passion for this game, that knows the sport, that knows what it means to break a world record. Some people don’t even know what a world record or African championship record means. You need people who are educated about the sport. That is the way you can get athletes to do the best. Athletes that you are supposed to pay training grants in November, you then give them in April when it’s no longer relevant. They will just use it for shopping. You can’t give me that kind of money now, I will just go to the mall! They are always doing things at the last minute. That is one of the things they need to change because it is not taking us anywhere. It is just slowing us down.

Making Of Champions is working on a plan to start Professional Track Clubs in Nigeria and train athletes to go to the Olympics, giving them access to world class training in Nigeria. Do you think it’s something that could work in Nigeria?

It might be a 50-50 thing. I don’t know how successful it will be.

It worked in Jamaica…..

It depends on the people running this whole thing. If it’s going to work for them, good luck. I would just wish them good luck.

How would you like to give back to Nigeria, and play a role in reviving the sport across the nation?

I’m trying to set up my foundation. I’m still working on that but I have to make sure that I have people that I can actually trust because I don’t really stay in Nigeria, so I need people that I can trust to stand there when you need them. I still have so much going on but I want to give back to my community, my country and fans. I’m setting up my foundation to help young kids coming up in any way I can – probably put them through school, maybe up to college. It will be a great thing so I’m looking forward to that.

So if Making of Champions is able to start this programme to give home-based athletes training right in Nigeria, would you like to support that programme?

It depends! I can’t just put my money into something I have no guarantees will work…

No money involved oh, it’s just for you to mentor the kids…

Okay, yeah, whichever way I can support, of course I will!

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak exclusively to MAKING OF CHAMPIONS – we wish you all the best for the future!

Thank you!

 

If you missed Part I, on Blessing’s CAREER and her chase for more MEDALS and RECORDS, check it out here!

Or Part II, on her MARRIAGE, KIDS, and on finding her voice on Social Media, click here!

Making of Champs is HIRING! Junior Sports Writer..

23 Aug

Making of Champions’ Media has exploded into prominence in 2014, thanks to our live on-location coverage of events such as the World RelaysCommonwealth Games and the African Championships! In barely four months we have amassed 7,500 Facebook fans, 1,000 Twitter  Followers, 200 on Instagram, over 22,500 views on the YouTube Channel and a staggering 50,000 views of this blog!

This growth could not have been possible without a small team of AMAZING sports writers, who have blogged, tweeted and posted furiously on all things Team Nigeria during the 2014 Athletics Season! As we enter a new phase of growth for Making of Champions, we’re looking to add a Junior Sports Writer to the team – a highly driven person who is looking to forge an exciting career as a sports journalist in Nigeria! 

Job Description

  • – Write and publish stories and articles for Making of Champions blog and website
  • – Perform extensive research to aid in the creation of blog/website content
  • – Conduct interviews with athletes and coaches to create written, audio or video content 
  • – Attend and cover Domestic and Continental Athletics meets with Team Nigeria and MoC Athletes, including LIVE Twitter, Facebook and Instagram updates at these events
  • – Also cover other sports outside of Athletics, particularly Football
  • – Report to Senior Sports Writer who also acts as Editor, and attend daily editorial meetings 
  • – Based in Lagos full-time with plenty of travel within Nigeria to cover domestic meets, and some travel within Africa for continental competitions!

Requirements

  • – 1 – 2 years Journalism or Sports Journalism experience, or recent graduate in either field
  • – Bachelor’s Degree in any field. If no prior full-time work experience, then Journalism degree an advantage
  • – If no Journalism degree or full-time experience, has displayed a clear flair and interest in writing and journalism through hobbies, club memberships at university or an existing blog
  • – Maintains excellent writing and language skills and displays ability to effectively communicate information and ideas in written, audio and video format.
  • – Enjoys a working knowledge of the sports blogs and websites in Nigeria and Africa
  • – Deep knowledge of Nigerian Athletics and strong interest in World Athletics are advantages
  • – Prior experience with Social Media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) a plus

Compensation & Other Benefits

  • – Full or Part-time salary negotiable (based on experience)
  • – All expenses paid trips to cover National & Continental Competition. E.g. in 2014/15,
    • o National Sports Festival
    • o Nigerian Golden League
    • o National Championships
    • o African Youth & Junior Championships
    • o African Nation’s Cup (Football)

Application & Deadline

  • – Send your CV and Cover Letter to management@makingofchamps.com, with ‘MoC Junior Sports Writer’ as email subject! The application deadline is Sunday September 7th 2014
  • – Interviews will take place throughout September 2014 in Lagos, or by phone/Skype for applicants in other locations!

Here’s a message from MoC Founder, Bambo Akani, on the launch of this new, exciting phase for Making of Champions – PROJECT RIO!

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