World-class sprinter and long jumper Blessing Okagbare, 26, is already the fastest woman in Africa — her best of 10.79 seconds is the continent’s 100-meter record — but the Nigerian athlete is less concerned with maintaining her ranking than she is about beating herself. “I’d like to break 10.7 seconds for the 100 and 22.8 seconds for the 200, and I want to jump further than 7.3 meters in the long jump. I have goals written up and posted around my room. I write them as soon as I wake, when I’m feeling fresh.”
As a young athlete, Okagbare competed in the high, long and triple jumps — and her triple-threat talent earned her a scholarship to university in the United States. There, coaches encouraged her to add running to her repertoire. “They noticed that I ran faster than most of the runners,” recalls Okagbare. “They said to me: ‘You aren’t a jumper, but a sprinter who can jump.’”
The transition brought new challenges, but Okagbare looked to a tried-and-true dedication and focus.
“Growing up I was very skinny and someone told me that I could never do sports because I was too soft and fragile. I didn’t let it get to me. I pushed through and became a jumper. Then, I set a new goal to be a runner. It’s all about setting goals and keeping your mind set on those goals. Don’t ever give up on yourself.”
This philosophy translates into a training regimen that juggles each event’s particular demands and challenges. “I train for both [sports] on the same day. For the jumps, I practice techniques and afterwards I switch to the sprints, focusing on my speed work, especially my starts, which is what I battle with.”
To conquer on-track challenges, Okagbare employs cross training. “I start at 6 a.m. every morning in the gym before I run; you get muscles from explosive training. The power of my runs comes from doing weight training and the speed comes from track running.”
She also relies on an intense inward focus. Blocking out the competition, Okagbare registers only her own performance, despite training alongside many of the world’s top runners.
“Training with competitors does not get to me because I focus on myself. During the race, I don’t even notice if my training partner is in the race, but I don’t underestimate anyone. As long as you are on the starting line, you are a competitor.”
The next few months will reveal the fruits of Okagbare’s labour, as she competes in key international races, including the World Track and Field Championships in Beijing.
“Repetition during my training helps me go into a race and not have to think so hard because it will come naturally. You put in the work during training and then take that into the competition.”
Raheem Sterling dropped by England after trying to grab Joe Gomez by the neck
Manchester City striker Raheem Sterling has been dropped from England’s European Championship qualifier against Montenegro after a physical confrontation with Liverpool’s defender Joe Gomez.
According to several reports, Sterling attempted to grab Gomez by the neck following his arrival in the players’ canteen at St George’s Park on Monday, just a day after the pair clashed during Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Manchester City.
Witnesses said they heard him ask the Liverpool defender whether he was “still the big man.”
For Sterling’s part in the bust-up, FA confirmed in a statement that Sterling is not going to play any part against Montenegro on Thursday. Although, the 24-year-old will remain with the squad.
‘The FA can confirm Raheem Sterling will not be considered for Thursday’s EURO 2020 qualifier against Montenegro as a result of a disturbance in a private team area at St. George’s Park today,’ a statement read. ‘He will remain with the squad.’
Sterling is understood to have apologised to Gomez and the entire England squad after the altercation.
He also took address the bust-up with Joe Gomez: ‘We are in a sport where emotions run high and I am man enough to admit when emotions got the better of me,’ he posted. ‘Both Joe and I have had words and figured things out and moved on.’
We Have Always Maintained Our Innocence, Says NFF President, Pinnick
President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick, has said that his team had always maintained their innocence at the organisation.
Pinnick made the disclosure on Monday while appearing as guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily.
The NFF President said his team had also always laid its books bare for everyone to see.
His statement comes few days after a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja discharged and acquitted him of charges bordering on fraud to the tune of $8.4m and N4bn.
Pinnick and other executives of the NFF were charged on 16 counts of corruption and misappropriation of the said sums from the 2014 FIFA Grant, as well as for conflict of interest and non-declaration of assets by the defunct Special Presidential Investigation Panel headed by Okon Obono-Obla.
On the recent court victory, Pinnick said, “This is not a personal victory for me and my other board members. It is victory for all of Nigerian football.”
He further stated that he and his team had always published their accounts using some of the best auditing firms in the world.
Pinnick said he was happy that the toxic moments are over, stating that it is now time “to pull and work together, not pull apart”.
African players don’t get the recognition they deserve at the top level – Cameroonian football legend, Samuel Eto’o
Cameroonian football legend, Samuel Eto’o has said that African players still do not get the recognition they deserve at the top level.
In an interview with AFP, the former Inter Milan and Barcelona striker said: “Western media dominate our media in Africa, so they definitely have an influence. People prefer to see a Lionel Messi goal,” Eto’o, 38, told AFP during a visit to Paris last month.
The former Barcelona star, once a teammate of Messi, believes that “African players are not respected” and are “not always properly appreciated”.
While George Weah, the former Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan striker who is now the president of Liberia, remains the only African player ever to have claimed the Ballon d’Or award in 1995, Eto has no regrets he never won the prize.
“No, because I won so many trophies, I made so many dreams and for me that is the equivalent of winning the Ballon d’Or. However, I do feel for my younger brothers who came along after my generation.”
Eto’o also attacked captains and coaches of 54 African national teams who shunned Senegal’s Sadio Mane and Egypt’s Mohamed Salah in FIFA’s The Best award to vote for other candidates in September.
“Why is there this hate between us Africans? Why the misplaced jealousy? If we don’t appreciate one another, others are not going to do it for us,” Eto’o said.
“It’s a shame. If all Africans voted for other Africans, we would have had several awards for the best player.”
“Africa needs to show how strong it is. We are lucky to have these good players, who scored more than ten goals in the Champions League – we had the top three scorers in the English league (Mane, Salah, Aubameyang) but somehow these young guys don’t have our support,” Eto’o added.
“I want to accompany them as much as I can, defend them, protect them, because one day it will be their turn to pass on the torch.
“That is what we Africans have not always understood, at all levels, and that is why we are still trailing behind.”
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