Abakaliki – Athletics fans in Ebonyi on Tuesday hailed Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare-Ighotegunor in spite of her disappointing finish at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Women 100m final in Beijing, China.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports the Okagbare- Ighotegunor finished last with a time of 11.02 secs in a contest won by Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica on Monday.
The fans who spoke to NAN in Abakaliki noted that Okagbare- Ighotegunor should be commended for reaching the final to motivate her in excelling at the up-coming All Africa Games (AAG).
Ebonyi Sports Council Secretary Hillary Obiesie said that by qualifying for the contest’s final, Okagbare-Ighotegunor had shown that she was among the best in the world.
“Finishing last in the contest shows that she is the eighth fastest woman in the world which is a huge feat in the comity of several established female sprint-runners.
“Blessing also justified her rating as Africa’s fastest woman, a feat envied by many countries, and which has placed Nigeria as one of the best athletics countries in the world,” he said.
For Dominic Ukwuome, Ebonyi Sports Council’s Athletics Chief Coach, the feat has made Okagbare-Ighotegunor the favourite for the AAG Women 100m gold.
“The National Sports Commission (NSC) should collaborate with Okagbare-Ighotegunor’s instructors to effectively psyche her up to forget the IAAF disappointment and focus on the AAG.
“She can use the AAG to prove that she can perform better than her IAAF’s performance and make her perform better at future competitions,” he said.
Josephine Alozie, a former South-East Regional Athletics competitor, counselled Nigerian fans on the disparity between Nigeria and other countries which won medals at the contest.
“We cannot compare the level of athletics development between Nigeria and countries like Jamaica, Netherlands and the U.S.
“Athletics is given the same level of attention Nigeria gives to football in these countries. Okagbare-Ighotegunor attained her enviable height in the sport because she is based abroad,” she said.
Chief Emmanuel Aleke, a former Member of the Ebonyi House of Assembly, called on the NSC to ensure that Nigeria swept the athletics medals at the AAG.
“Mere seeing Okagbare-in the start-off point of the contest gave sports fans an unbridled sense of national pride which should be replicated at the AAG.
“The government and the private sector should massively invest in athletics and other sports to attain the level of development witnessed in established sporting countries,” he said.
A teacher, Mrs Stella Okoh, called for massive investment in grassroots sports development to discover athletes that would replace the likes of Okagbare-Ighotegunor.
“Athletes such as Usian Bolt, Justin Gatlin, Fraser-Pryce among others were discovered at their tender ages and groomed to become world beaters,” she said. (NAN)