Don’t be comfortable at 22.04 seconds, Mary Onyali advises Blessing Okagbare

Mary Onyali

Former African sprints record holder Mary Onyali-Omagbemi on Monday advised Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor to work harder and lower her time in the women’s 200 metres.

Onyali-Omagbemi told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja she was happy to see her record of 22 years broken by another Nigerian who she feels can still do better.

NAN reports that Okagbare-Ighoteguonor on March 25 set a new African record in the women’s 200m event.

Okagbare-Ighoteguonor set the new record at the Wes Kittley Invitational at the Abilene Christian University in Abilene at Texas, U.S.

The 29-year-old set the new record with a time of 22.04 seconds to erase Onyali-Omagbemi’s 22.07 seconds record set at the Wetklasse Grand Prix in Zurich, Switzerland 22 years ago.

“I am excited and fulfilled to see a record that I made years ago broken. I congratulate her.

“I have always known that she will break the record since I have been monitoring her performance,” Onyali-Omagbemi said.

She, however, expressed fears that the new record was not safe at the point it is now.

“Where the record is right now is not safe. Okagbare-Ighoteguonor needs to drop it down to 21 seconds.

“I was thinking that for Okagbare-Ighoteguonor to have broken the records, she needed to run at least 21 where it will be a little bit harder for anybody else to touch it.

“I want her to work harder to bring it lower because it was 22.07, and an Ivorian athlete at the last World Championship came close to it with 22.08.

“For Okagbare-Ighoteguonor to have done 22.04, it is still within the range of the Ivorian girl.

“The season is just beginning and it is going to be interesting to see who will eventually clinch it at the end of the season,’’ the former Team Nigeria captain said.

The Olympian, however, said the fact that her 1996 record stayed unbroken for 22 years was a sign of athletics underdevelopment in Nigeria and Africa in general.

“The state of athletics in the country should be a cause for concern for stakeholders in the sports industry.

“The development of sports in Nigeria is part of the things that brought me back to the country.

“I have been working hard to see how athletics will be reintroduced in primary schools,” she said.

Onyali-Omagbemi won the bronze medal in the 4×100m relay at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain and in the 200m at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta in the U.S.

She also won the 1994 Commonwealth Games’ 100m title.