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Tokyo Olympics: I May Do Only One Event – Blessing Okagbare

Leading Nigerian athlete and three-time Olympian, Blessing Okagbare, says she’s focused on being healthy and enjoying an injury-free season

Blessing Okagbare: injury and health issues have taken a lot from me / Photo credit: peoplespostmedia.com
Blessing Okagbare: injury and health issues have taken a lot from me / Photo credit: peoplespostmedia.com

With the 2019 athletics season about to start with the indoor games, Nigeria Queen of the track, Blessing Okagbare, has set her sight on winning medals for the country at the All African Games in Morocco and World Championship in Doha later in the year. Excerpts…

What are your goals for the year after 2018?

Of course there is always a target, I am still missing that World Championships gold medal, I’ve got silver and bronze. I actually want to represent Nigeria, not to just go there, but to get the right medal and be able to do what I am supposed to do when I am healthy. Things people know I am capable of doing, I just hope everything goes well for me.

You actually started the 2018 season like a house on fire but suddenly things went down, how can you describe 2018?

The year was like a blessing in disguise for me; I know I still have it just that this whole injury and health issues have taken a lot from me. When I started the season, I wasn’t expecting anything less but I am very grateful to God that I am where I want to be.

I started the season very well but when I went back to the injury, there was nothing much I could do. Mentally I was fine, but physically, my body was not there and I kept fighting which made everything worse.

I was supposed to shut it down, but I was like, let me do this treatment, rehab and then go back, but it wasn’t actually there. So overall, I am grateful to God. I can still train, I still have a lot to accomplish, I just have to stay healthy so as to compete very well. My major focus right now is to start to get healthy again.

They just cleared me to start practicing. Mentally, I am always there, there is this confidence that you take to a competition as an athlete that makes you know you are ready, you are healthy. It’s unlike when you know you are having issues, you are hurting somewhere which takes so much from you and people doesn’t even realise that.

We lack maintenance culture; not only in other things but sports also. Some of us suffered it and still came out of it to be able to excel against all odds. We need to find a proper way of doing things. I think most of the people out there don’t really put enough passion needed into the game and actually, passion is a key thing that drives someone to be successful. So, if as an administrator, you don’t have the passion to do the right thing at the right time, then we will continue to fail.

2020 is the Olympics year, will this year be a preparatory one for you?

I am looking forward to Tokyo 2020 and I believe everything will fall in place for me. I will stay focused to do on my own part, maybe I will take part in just one event.

My major focus right now is to start to get healthy again. They just cleared me to start practicing. Mentally, I am always there, there is this confidence that you take to a competition as an athlete that makes you know you are ready, you are healthy. It’s unlike when you know you are having issues, you are hurting somewhere which takes so much from you and people doesn’t even realise that.

There are some young athletes in the country at the moment, how do we turn them to world stars?

We got real potential because these guys are coming really fast but we just have to pay attention to them and nurture them properly which is something we lack. I don’t know how they lost it. We have these talents but after each event, we don’t really go back to know how they are doing, how they’re preparing and also offer them words of encouragement.

A phone call here and there won’t be bad, I know it does for me especially athletes that are self-motivated. When you are self-motivated and believe in yourself that you can do it, and someone is out there to call you and encourage you, it goes a long way mentally for an athlete, something we lack in this country, right from the top.

Also, we need to focus on grooming athletes properly and educate them. The truth is after coming out with the talent, nobody follows up on them. So, they just fall along the way. We really have to find a proper way of doing things in this country.

We lack maintenance culture; not only in other things but sports also. Some of us suffered it and still came out of it to be able to excel against all odds. We need to find a proper way of doing things. I think most of the people out there don’t really put enough passion needed into the game and actually, passion is a key thing that drives someone to be successful.

So, if as an administrator, you don’t have the passion to do the right thing at the right time, then we will continue to fail. We have seen many of our talents going to other countries, it’s not a good thing, but at the end of the day, that’s the only choice they are left with and nobody can question them or blame them.

You have to ask yourself that question, what have you done? What have you been doing before you can criticise those leaving? You have failed on your end and they can’t continue to depend on you and keep on waiting. Everyone has their time limit and it continues to tick. We have to actually start grooming, nurturing and taking care of our athletes properly.

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