Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare on Sunday launched her quest for personal and country’s first gold at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Beijing by winning her Heat race to qualify for semi-final of the women’s 100m. Running in heat two, Okagbare, the only Nigerian featuring in the women’s 100m competition, recovered from a slightly pedestrian start to pip Jamaica’s Natasha Morrison by 0.01 in 11.07.
The Commonwealth champion, sporting dyed red hair, trailed the quick starting Morrison for much of the race before charging through in the latter stages to earn the satisfaction of the heat win. Much of the pre-race buzz was about the look of World and Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s unusual look, and unusually for the Jamaican, she was beaten out of the blocks by African bronze medallist Marie-Josee Ta Lou and trailed the Ivorian for the first 70 metres until storming home in the latter stages.
Ta Lou, who has a legal best of 11.06 set in Paris last month, herself ran a hugely impressive 10.95 with South Africa’s Carina Horn snatching third in 11.08. Before yesterday, only once in World Championship history had a woman dip under 11 seconds in the first round heats of the 100m. Four women broke through that barrier on the track of the Bird Nest Stadium.
The avalanche of super-quick times began in the opening heat as American Tori Bowie flew to victory in 10.88 (0.5mps). Heat three went against the formbook as Michelle-Lee Ahye, of Trinidad and Tobago, stole a march on the field with her quick start to blast to victory in 10.98.
It was an impressive victory from the heavily-tattooed Trinidadian who comfortably took the heat win from Bulgaria’s former European champion Ivet Lalova-Collio in 11.09. In heat five, European champion Dafne Schippers produced a perfectly controlled run to stop the clock in 11.01. Despite the roars of the vociferous and colourful Jamaican spectators packed in the stands by the home stretch they had to settle for Sherone Simpson taking third in heat six in 11.22.
– Oladipo Okubanjo