Nigeria’s poster girl in the 400m, Regina George will make a much awaited return to the IAAF Diamond League, in the ninth leg, tagged the ‘Sainsbury’s Glasgow Grand Prix’ slated to hold on July 11 and 12 in the Scottish city which will be hosting the Commonwealth Games later this month.
George’s race, which comes up at 8.38pm on Friday (July 11), will count as only the second Diamond League event she has featured in this season. The first was in Shanghai (May 18) where she finished eighth with a time of 51.39s. The 23 year old has not recorded much progress in the individual 400m since then, though she did post a top-notch performance at the inaugural IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas, where she led Nigeria’s 4x400m to a bronze medal with an impressive 49.4s split on the second leg, which was the fastest by any athlete in the race.
Her chase for a third Nigerian title ended in a shock defeat for George, as she finished outside the podium during the national trials held in Calabar last month. Her fellow World Relay Bronze medallists finished ahead of her – Folashade Abugan won the title in 51.39s, with Omolara Omotosho and Patience Okon George crossing the finish line ahead of Regina, who placed fourth with 51.67s.
Nevertheless her victory in Tuesday’s Hungarian Athletics Grand Prix may boost her confidence ahead of Friday’s race, even though she could only manage a winning time of 52.11s. Compatriot Gloria Asumnu also featured in the women’s 100m where she returned a time of 11.58 in fifth place, just after former world champion, Carmelita Jeter who was fourth with an SB of 11.56s.
George comes into the two-day competition with an SB of 51.30s and will face the herculean task of trying to upstage some of the big names in the women’s 400m including Olympic champion, Sanya Richards-Ross who won the event in Paris last week. Former world champion, Amantle Montsho who is the Commonwealth Games defending champion and USA Champion Francena McCorory will also be on ground to spice up the race, alongside the Jamaican duo of Ann Stephanie Ann McPherson and Novlene Williams-Mills. Reigning world champion, Christine Ohuruogu of Great Britain is not expected to pose a challenge as she comes to the competition with the slowest SB among the pack (53.14s).
Another Nigerian interest, in the men’s triple jump, is Tosin Oke, who currently doubles as the African and Commonwealth Games champion. The Nigerian champion no doubt wants to test the waters ahead of the Commonwealth Games, and is in form to do so, going by his jump of 17.21m at the national trials in Calabar, which equalled the third best jump of his career. He goes against a star studded field which includes two London 2012 Olympic medallists, Christian Taylor and Will Claye and Cuba’s Ernesto Reve who has an SB of 17.58m. This event comes up on Saturday (July 12) at 3.50pm at Hampden Park.
Last but by no means the least, Nigeria’s sprint queen Blessing Okagbare will once again race in the 200m on Saturday at 4.07pm. The Sainsbury Grand Prix surely holds a special place in the sprinter’s heart, going by her exploits during last year’s edition of the event, which was held in London to commemorate the Olympic Games. The Delta State athlete set a new African record of 10.86s in the heats, which eclipsed Glory Alozie’s existing record of 10.90s, and further lowered her time to win the final an hour later in 10.79s.
Okagbare has been concentrating on the 200m this season and will be looking forward to setting a record over the event soon. She currently tops the Diamond League rankings with 10 points, having won the 200m in Shanghai and Paris, and placed second in Eugene with a Personal Best of 22.23s, making her the third fastest Nigerian of all time, after Mary Onyali (22.07s) and Falilat Ogunkoya (22.22s). Will the Sainsbury Grand Prix be the place where she sets another African record? World leader, Tori Bowie (22.18s), three-time world champion Allyson Felix and Jamaica’s double world champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce will be forces to contend with come Saturday.
The women’s 100m race comes up on Saturday and Cote d’Ivoire’s Murielle Ahouré will run in the 100m alongside world leader this season, Trinidad & Tobago’s Michelle Lee-Ahye (10.85s), Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and USA’s Carmelita Jeter, who is still struggling to hit top form this season. Jeter, the second fastest woman ever and former world champion comes to the meeting with an unimpressive SB of 11.56s.
Also watch out for Botswana’s Isaac Makwala who recently emerged as Africa’s fastest man in the 400m. The sprinter erased Gary Kikaya’s eight-year record of 44.10s with a new time of 44.01s at the Resisprint International meeting in the Switzerland, and then returned a time of 19.96s in the 200m to set another national record just ninety minutes later!
Jamaican star, Yohan Blake is the big name in the men’s 100m which takes place on Friday. He will go against Great Britain’s James Dasaolu, USA’s Michael Rodgers and Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago amongst others.
Follow the Glasgow Diamond League LIVE on Supersport, Friday 7-9pm SS6A (DSTV 206), AND Saturday 3-5pm SS2A (DSTV 202)