Final stop…Brussels. The 2014 IAAF Diamond League series will wind off with an explosive second final in Brussels on September 5th, with Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare as one of the top contenders for the women’s 200m race, which is one of the 16 events scheduled to hold on Friday.
The first final took place last week in Zurich, Switzerland where Okagbare narrowly missed the highly coveted $50,000 prize money in the women’s 100m ($10,000 for the Zurich win, and $40,000 for the overall 100m Diamond Race trophy in 2014), finishing third in 11.06s behind Veronica Campbell-Brown and Murielle Ahouré who both posted 11.04s in a photo finish, in the absence of world leader, Tori Bowie who bowed out due to injury. Instead, Blessing only got $4,000 for her 3rd place in that race, emphasising the fine margins in this sport – 0.03s faster in Zurich would have made her $46,000 richer!
She would be seeking to make amends this time around, but will have to battle Allyson Felix and Dafne Schippers for the 200m in Brussels, and it will be her fifth 200m in the Diamond League series this year (after Shanghai, Eugene, Paris and Glasgow). Both Felix and Schippers beat Okagbare to the line in the Glasgow leg, so she will be wary of the threat they both pose. The only other woman to beat her over 200m this season is Bowie, but she is out due to injury, meaning that only Okagbare or Felix can still win the 200m Diamond Race trophy:
Felix, who has a Season’s Best (SB) of 22.34s, currently tops the Diamond League standings with 13 points, while Okagbare follows closely with 11 points. The Nigerian, who has concentrated majorly on the 200m this season and posted an SB of 22.23s in Eugene, had dominated the event in the Diamond League, prior to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and African Championships in Marrakech. However she conceded her lead to Felix, having missed out of the Stockholm leg of the series.
Okagbare would also have to contend with Schippers, the world leader in the event, and the only woman to get anywhere close to breaking 22 seconds this season. The Dutch athlete stormed to the European sprint double title with a National Record (NR) of 22.03s in the 200m and 11.12s in the 100m. She won the Glasgow leg of the race and occupies fourth position in the rankings with four points. Other athletes competing in the event include American duo Joanna Atkins (22.27s) and Jeneba Tarmoh (22.41s), Team GB’s Jodie Williams (22.46s) and Anthonique Starchan (22.50s) of the Bahamas.
This final race of the season could see the first sub-22 in the 200 metres since Allyson Felix performed the feat to win Olympic GOLD at London 2012. Blessing, in her exclusive interview with MAKING OF CHAMPIONS during the African Championships in Marrakech, revealed that she wants to break Mary Onyali’s 200m African Record (22.07s) this season, and this would be her last chance to do it! She may have to do that and more, given the form that Schippers is in this season!
With only 4 points from her win in Glasgow, Schippers is not in contention for the 200m Diamond Race Crown and $40,000 prize money. It’s a two-way fight between Okagbare and Felix. Blessing will need to finish ahead of Allyson and get some points on the board to win the trophy. Points are doubled in this final race (1st, 2nd & 3rd get 8, 4 and 2 points respectively), so if Okagbare is second and Felix is third, they will both finish on 15 points. By “count back” they will still be tied as they have TWO victories apiece this season, and so Blessing will win the trophy on the final tie-break criteria – the better result in this race!
Same would apply if Okagbare is third – Felix must finish behind her for both of them to finish on 13 points, and for Blessing to win the trophy. In short, even in Schippers wins on the night, Okagbare can still win the Diamond Race, but it’s certainly advantage Felix as she has more points on the board currently!
The Diamond Race champions of eight of the 16 events have already been decided, though the athletes must compete in their discipline in Brussels to secure the $40,000 bonus and Diamond Trophy. They are Pascal Martinot-Lagarde (110 Hurdles), Novlene Williams-Mills (400m), Jairus Birech (3000m steeplechase), Eunice Sum (800m), Renaud Lavillenie (Pole vault), Kaliese Spencer (400m Hurdles), Caterine Ibarguen (Triple Jump) and Valerie Adams (Shot put).
Former Nigerian athlete, Femi Ogunode (20.06s) of Qatar will be competing in the 200m which is not a Diamond League event, and he will go against African 400m champion and silver medallist in the 200m, Isaac Makwala (19.96s), world leader Justin Gatlin (19.68s), Christophe Lemaitre (20.08s) and Alonso Edward (19.84s).
In the women’s 400m hurdles, Bahrain’s Kemi Adekoya (54.59s) who controversially switched from competing for Nigeria to Bahrain this year, will be competing against the fastest woman in the event this year, Kaliese Spencer (53.41s), whose presence already guarantees her the trophy and $40,000 bonus. The Jamaican tops the standings with a whopping 22 points and has been impressive all season. African champion, Wenda Theron (54.82s) will also be in action.
(Athletes’ SBs are in brackets)
The Zurich Diamond League will be shown LIVE on SuperSports 2 from 7-9pm on Friday, with Blessing’s 200m race at 8.04pm SHARP! YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS THIS!