Nigeria number one female athlete, Blessing Okagbare has said she actually wanted to be an accountant before going into track and field.
The reigning African champion in 200m said she never thought she would become a household name in track and field.
Speaking with Womenfitness.net, the Olympics and World Championships medallist said:
”I grew up aspiring to be an accountant, to serve people in a financial sector,” she said in the interview and revealed how her journey to stardom in track and field started.
”It all started when I was in high school where I was just running/jumping at inter-house sports in high school for fun and I was really good at it. Even as a little girl I loved running and jumping with the boys in my street and also played soccer with them. One faithful afternoon, I went to my older sister high school as she had told her teacher she has a little sister who can run. So, they put me in a race with other girls older than me and I won against all of them. He then told me I am good and that if I train and take it seriously, I can represent my country someday.
Little me said no as I was only running for fun not for anything he was saying as I do not even know about all what that is. One week later after giving it a thought, I went back to him, told him I was ready and he took me to the stadium in my home town and registered me in a sport club called Dynamic Athletics club.
From then on I started training but was not really taking it seriously as I just felt like there was nothing so important in it. Months after that, my coach sent me home and said I am not serious about what they do at the track and specifically told me not to come back until I am ready to be an athlete. Well, I went home, thought about it for days and I went back. From there on, my life took a different part as I went from high school into-house sport to local competition, state competition, and national competition, got a scholarship to study/run track in the United States of America where my true success story began and now the world knows,” she revealed.
The sprinter cum long jumper has grown to become the best sprinter in Nigeria having won in three 100m finals at the World Championships and once at the 2012 Olympics.
Okagbare is the only Nigerian to win two individual medals at the World Championships.
She holds the national record in the 100m (10.79) and the 200m (22.04) and she is third in the all-time ranking in the long jump (7.00m) behind Chioma Ajunwa (7.12m) and Ese Brume (7.05m).
The 32-year-old University of Texas in El Paso (UTEP) graduate who is looking forward to Tokyo Olympics, strongly believes in setting realistic goals for herself in order to succeed.
”Athletes must set realistic goals, goals they feel they can achieve based on the kind of training they have gone through;work towards the actualisation of these goals. In doing this,discipline is key. They must be extremely disciplined towards achieving these goals and eat healthy,” she advised.
“Talk positively to yourself, trust yourself that you are ready. Limit distractions from cell phone and social media, listen to positive words/music that
inspires you, that can get your ears away from noise/distractions and believe you can do it,” she added.
Okagbare won a fortuitous silver medal in the long jump in her debut in China 12 years ago. But her current ambition is to become the first Nigerian male or female to win a blue ribband medal at the Olympics.
Since 2016, she has ran her best race in the 200m,breaking 22.10 twice, setting the 22.04 seconds African record in 2018 and coming one hundredth of a second closer (22.05) to equalling her record last year.
However, Okagbare failed to make it to the final of the 100m four years ago in Rio, Brazil and she will be hoping to end a trend that continued at the 2017 and 2019 World Championships in London and Doha respectively.
She was disqualified in Doha from the championships last year when the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) Technical Director did not perform his duties properly.
Okagbare said she learned from the experience and will do better.
‘I have learnt that there are things that can really humble you and there isn’t much you can do about it.’
For Okagbare, the future after COVID-19 is bright as she prepares for the Tokyo Olympics which will be her fourth and probably last appearance at the Olympic Games.