On Saturday July 27th 2013, Blessing finally broke Glory Alozie’s 14 year old African 100m record at the London Anniversary Games – and she lowered it twice in the space of 90 minutes!
As you can probably see from our latest teaser, it comes as no surprise to me that she has finally written Alozie’s time of 10.90s out of the record books – Ever since she ran a slightly wind-assisted 10.75s in Eugene on the 1st of June (+2.2m/s wind), I knew that it was only a matter of time before she would run a legal sub 10.90 secs (any time with 2.0m/s tailwind or less is deemed legal for record purposes). The next chance she had to do it was on July 6th at the Paris leg of the Diamond League. Incidentally, that was the same day we were in Madrid meeting with Glory Alozie, who was still the holder of the 100m African record until the London Anniversary Games – and Glory was very bullish about and supportive of Blessing’s chances of taking her record the very day we met with her. Unfortunately for Blessing that night, she dipped prematurely a few metres from the line to finish in 2nd place behind Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in a time 10.93s. Once again, the keen observer would have noted that she had an African record in her this season…
The plot thickens slightly because of a 10.84s run that Chioma Ajunwa (Africa’s Long Jump record holder) did at the National Stadium in Lagos that was never ratified because, apparently, the right equipment was not in place to have the time ratified. I was worried that Blessing might break Alozie’s 10.90s and not Ajunwa’s 10.84, in which case Ajunwa’s time might have still unofficially cast a cloud over Blessing’s record. This turned out to be the case for less than 90 minutes on Saturday, Blessing first ran 10.86s in the semi-finals, but then came back for the final to lower the record further to 10.79s – undisputed champion! Very pleased that she has done it right before the World Championships starting in less than 2 weeks now – it shows that she’s peaking at the right stage of the season, and she will go to there full of confidence that she is a Gold medal contender in the 100 metres!
I say that Blessing is a Triple Threat in Moscow (August 10th – 18th) because I am convinced that she is about to do something unprecedented and unheard of for Nigerian Athletics. Nigeria has not won a single World Championship medal in 6 consecutive attempts. Nigeria’s last medals were won in Seville ’99 by Francis Obikwelu (200m Bronze) and Glory Alozie (100m Hurdles Silver), who incidentally switched to represent Portugal and Spain respectively, both in 2001. Blessing is a realistic contender for 3 Gold medals – the 100m, 200m and the Long Jump. Her form in all 3 events this season suggests that she will likely get some colour of medal in each – she is currently 2nd, 4th and 3rd in the world this year (10.79s, 22.31s and 7.00m) respectively in those 3 events. Her obvious height advantage over the other girls is already drawing comparisons to Usain Bolt, and if she does get three Golds at the Worlds, then comparisons to both Usain Bolt and Carl Lewis (the last world class sprinter to combine those three events), will not be misplaced!!
What is my prediction for the World Championship for Nigeria (which basically means for Blessing, since any other Nigerian medal would come as a huge surprise and bonus)? My heart says that Blessing WILL win 3 GOLDs and help our 4x100m team to sneak a Bronze medal behind the USA and Jamaica (in that order), and just ahead of the likes of Trinidad & Tobago and Ukraine. My head tells me that after winning a medal in the Long Jump (probably silver, behind USA’s Brittany Reese) on August 10th, whether she gets Gold in the 100m or silver behind Shelly-Ann Fraser on August 11th will depend on how well she recovers from the Long Jump the day before.
My big big tip is to watch out for something special from Blessing in the 200 metres (Aug 15th – 17th) – I have been saying since last year when we all saw Blessing at the Olympics that the 200 will undoubtedly become her more dominant event, because her strong finish over the longer sprint will more than make up for her poor start, which is the only thing limiting her now from running sub 10.7 in the 100 metres. In my mind, the only person who could possibly stand in her way is Olympic Champion Allyson Felix, but even she has had an indifferent season, though she did win the final 200m before the Worlds, in London last Friday. One thing is certain for me – whether Blessing gets the Gold or Silver in the 200 metres, she is definitely going to break Mary Onyali’s 18-year old African record of 22.07 in Moscow – she will certainly have to anyway to get a medal. Does Blessing have what it takes to break 22 seconds in the 200 metres? For a girl in the form of her life with a 10.79s PB in the 100 metres, I’ll leave you to answer that question for yourself!