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 second part of the 3-part interview series recorded in Morocco during the African Championships, she speaks on her upcoming marriage, on having kids, and on finding her voice on Social Media!
Now, you’re engaged to be married. So first of all congratulations!
Do you have a wedding date yet, and will you be planning to start a family soon? How do you plan to weigh that up with your career aspirations?
Actually it’s sometime in November and I’m looking forward to it. But I just want to get the wedding over with. I mean when I get married I become Mrs someone, I would have a husband but then talking about a family and kids is not really in the schedule for right now. I already have so much planned out for the near future and I really want to achieve that. That’s why I just believe that when I can do this and put this in place, then the rest will follow.
So maybe kids after the next Olympics…?
Well we’ll see about that.
Your fiancé is an ex-Super Eagles player, Igho Otegheri. Have you discussed whether your children will be footballers or sprinters?
(She laughs) Oh we always argue about that. He would be like ‘he would play soccer’ and I would be like ‘Play what? My son is not playing soccer. He can play basketball. I wouldn’t want the girl to be in Track but the thing is when they are blessed with the talent, there’s not much we can do but support them. I would really want to support my kids but I don’t want any of them to be in Track & Field.
With the two of you it seems you’re going to have some pretty talented kids….
They can just do other sports – a sport that can make them some money though!
You’ve started using social media quite effectively to make your voice heard. We’ve got some quotes here that you’ve made on Facebook, and we just wanted to ask exactly what each of them mean to you! The first one is ‘Do not mock a pain that you haven’t endured’.
It goes to people that just sit down and criticize. It’s a like the team goes for a competition and, they don’t know what I went through at the Olympics, and they say, ‘She just went there and failed’. The thing is, do you think I actually went there to fail? You don’t know what it feels like. It took me four months to get over London 2012, just to get over the whole mental setback before putting myself together. The thing is before you actually sit down to criticize someone, put yourself in the shoes of that person and see what it feels like, before jumping to conclusions.
The second one is interesting. ‘It is in the house of a coward that people gather and point to the tomb of yesterday’s warrior.’
(Laughter) I had people say so much about that. Yes the thing is some people say something right now, and they go back and change it, and they bring people together and talk about the same thing while they are not really going to do it. ‘You know I really want to be somebody, I want to do this, I want to do that’ and then they go back and change it; they don’t fulfill the things they said they were going to do. Or they just brag about something so hard but behind closed doors they do the opposite. But they bring people together and say all this stuff like….I call them cowards.
The next one is ‘When someone says you’ve changed, it simply means you’ve stopped living your life their way.’
Of course! Of course!! If I make you too happy that means I’ve been doing a lot of things that you love but the thing is you have to accept me for who I am. We might be friends but sometimes I tell people that there is so much that goes beyond friendship. Some people might go ‘You’ve changed; you’ve stopped hanging out with us’. It’s just priority based; it’s not like I changed.
So on that note, how have you changed over the years and do you have to change to become a champion sprinter and win medals?
I’ve not really changed; I’ve just become more me and that’s Blessing Okagbare and there are certain things I can’t do. Like when I have a competition, you don’t expect me to be at the lobby trying to sit down and chit chat with people. I have to go to bed a certain time, I have to eat at a certain time. I remember how many times my coach made me go to bed in Glasgow and I couldn’t eat because it was too late, we came back from the track late. I go to bed starving and it is not fun. It is discipline. The thing is I get extremely disciplined. Like I was telling one of my friends that just graduated that when you are done with school, they start paying you a cheque. You get to another stage of your life where you just don’t say things or do things like ‘I don’t know if I want to do this thing, I’m not sure’, no you have to want it, that’s just it. I didn’t change, I just became more me, like I had to start putting more things on the priority list. The things I want right now, like I want this award, like Commonwealth GOLD medal, I’m not going for second place. This is what I want, so what is it going to take me coach? And then he says ‘This is what you have to do, you have to do this or do that’.
So the final quote from your wall is Biblical. It says ‘For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not delay.’ (Habakkuk 2:3)
Patience! It’s all about patience. Every day of my life has been a blessing, that’s what I see. I’ve been through a lot and sometimes I just feel like ‘God, you just forgot about me’ but each time I read the scriptures, there is so much I see that I’ve not even read in the Bible, that there is something called patience and you just have to be patient. When things start falling in place you will be so amazed at how wonderful it will be!
Tune in on Sunday evening for the third and final part of this Exclusive Interview with Blessing Okagbare, where she speaks on attempting the Olympic TREBLE, and she shares her thoughts on reviving Nigerian Athletics – stay tuned!
If you missed Part I, on Blessing’s CAREER and her chase for more MEDALS and RECORDS, check it out here!