Kenya top medals table at African Athletics Championships
Kenya ended top of the medals table for a second straight time as the African Athletics Championships came to a close in Mauritius on Sunday.
The Kenyans won their tenth gold medal, and 23rd in total, on Sunday to finish ahead of South Africa, who had one gold medal-less but a superior 36 overall.
Javelin star Julius Yego threw 79.62m, a season’s best, to see off old rival Ihab Addelrahman of Egypt and secure a historic fourth straight title in a row.
The Kenyan, world champion in 2015, said the triumph has given him a boost in another World Championship year, with the global championships taking place in the United States in just over a month.
“The last two years have been challenging because of an injury – I contemplated retiring but now I’m confident I still have what it takes,” Yego told BBC Sport Africa.
Nigeria and Algeria won five golds apiece to finish third and fourth on the table, just ahead of Ethiopia and Botswana, with four golds each, at the first finals with a record 47 nations.
Burkina Faso finished with two gold medals, while six countries won one – with Niger’s Aminatou Seyni creating history in the women’s 200m.
No Nigerien had ever won a medal at the championships before and the 25-year-old, who recently beat American Allyson Felix in Ostrava, took a historic first gold medal in 23.04 seconds.
“This is my first gold medal, and this is also the first gold medal for Niger at the African Athletics Championship – I’m very pleased with it and I’m very proud,” Seyni told BBC Sport.
“Unfortunately, with the rain, it wasn’t easy, but I gave it all out there. My aim this season is to reach the final at the World Championships and try my best to be on the podium.”
Championships whose conditions regularly proved challenging were once again earmarked by heavy rain and wind, with late programming changes also making life difficult for the athletes.
“I didn’t do enough warm-up – I was scared I would pull a muscle, or anything could happen,” reacted the new African men’s 200m champion, Letsile Tebogo of Botswana, after winning in 20.26 seconds.
“It means a lot to me because it’s going to make me push even harder to get more medals for my country. The conditions were bad because I hadn’t done enough warm-up and we rushed to get into a race and it was raining but you have to do your best and make people enjoy athletics.”
It was the same feeling for Cameroonian sprinter Emmanuel Alobwede, who won silver in the 200m final.
“When I arrived at the stadium, they had changed the time of the race, but I didn’t know, so I only had 25 minutes to warm up,” he told BBC Sport Africa.
“But as I went on the track, I told myself it’s not 25 minutes of warm-up that can prevent me to get a medal because I had traveled for 13 hours to come here.”
“This is my first big medal in an international championship, I’m very happy about it. It doesn’t matter whether gold or silver, I’m just happy I had a medal at a continental championship.”
Elsewhere, reigning shot-put champion Chukwuebuka Enekwechi not only defended his title but the Nigerian also created a new championship record when bettering his own mark from 2018 with a 21.20m throw.
Senegal had to wait until the very last day of the competition to win their first gold medal at the Championships as Sangoné Kandji won the women’s triple jump final with a personal best jump at 13.76 meters.
“I feel very emotional, and I am very happy. It’s my first African medal at senior level,” explained Kandji.
“I was here in 2009 as a junior and I won the long jump title, so I can say Mauritius is my country because I have now won the gold medal for triple jump.”Mauritius prepares to welcome Africa’s top athletes
There was an upset in the women’s 800m as the favorite Prudence Sekgodiso finished third behind Kenyan Jarinter Mwasya and Ethiopian Netsanet Gebre.
In the early morning, Kenyans Emily Ngii and Samuel Gathimba won the 20km walk while compatriot Abel Kipsang crossed the line first in the 1500m.
Yet it was Ethiopians who dominated the women’s 3000m steeplechase with Werkuha Woldeamanuel and Zerfe Kassa finishing first and second, while Hailemariam Tegegn won the men’s 5000m final.
Algerian Abdelmalik Lahoulou was disappointed to finish second in the men’s 400m hurdles, beaten by South African Sokwakhana Zazini, but Algerian joy was not to be denied as Hichem Bouhanoune won the men’s high jump final.
Botswana took the 4x400m men’s relay and South Africa finished the competition strongly with a win in the 4x400m women’s relay after Zene Van Der Walt and Taylon Bieldt had taken the top two spots on the podium in the women’s 400m hurdles.
The 23rd edition of the Championships will take place in 2024 in Cameroon.