All eyes will be on Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor tonight when she takes to the long jump pit of the Olympic Stadium in London to battle for one of the three medals on offer at the on-going 16th IAAF World Championships.
Silver medalist four years ago at the championships’ 14th edition in Moscow, Russia, the pretty Nigerian will attempt to consolidate on her status as Nigeria’s most successful athlete in the history of the Championships by winning her third medal following her silver and bronze medal wins in 2013.
This will be Okagbare’s second long jump final appearance in three attempts and the Beijing Olympics silver medallist in the event qualified for Friday’s final following her 6.51m leap in the qualifying round to place eighth in the final semi-final classification.
Meanwhile, sprint hurdler Tobiloba Amusan will also today make her IAAF World Championships bow when she files out at 11.17am for the fifth and final first round heat of the women’s 100m hurdles.
Amusan, one of the two athletes Nigerians are banking on for at least an individual medal at these championships has been in fine form this season and only last June won the highly competitive and prestigious American collegiate title in a 12.57 seconds personal best time.
The time, the second fastest by a Nigerian nay African woman in history move the hurdler to seventh position in the pre-championships ranking and makes her one of the favourites to qualify for Saturday’s final.
The petite Nigerian will however needs to successfully scale the first round hurdles where she has been drawn to run from lane 8.She is however expected to stroll in to the semi-finals as she is the fastest of all the eight athletes that will battle for the four automatic slots on offer.
A win or top four finish for her will make her the fifth Nigerian athlete to qualify for the semi-finals of the event after Angela Atede (1997 and 2003), Glory Alozie (1999), Toyin Augustus (2009) and Seun Adigun (2011).
Only Alozie managed to make it to the final and Amusan is tipped to become the second Nigerian to make it to the final and probably the second to also make the podium.
Alozie won a silver medal in the event at the championships’ 7th edition in Seville, Spain.
Also in action Friday is American-born Lindsey Lindley who will also be gunning for a semi-final ticket after crashing out in the first round in her debut in the event and the championships two years ago in Beijing, China.
Lindley will run from lane five in heat three alongside reigning world record holder (12.20 seconds) in the event, USA’s Kendra Harrison who is also the world leader in the event this season at 12.28 seconds; Yanique Thompson of Jamaica, Alina Talay of Belarus, Devynne Charlton of the Bahamas and Australia’s Michelle Jenneke.
The Nigerian will need to run faster than the 12.90 seconds personal best she ran before coming for the championships to make it beyond the first round or she will have to settle for one of the four fastest losers slot.