The relevance of African athletics at the global stage cannot be over-emphasised, as the Continent boasts of several athletes dominating at the top level, including some having World Record’s (WR) in their name.
When activities kick off in the London Olympic Stadium on Friday August 4th, it’ll throw out various athletes expected to do their nation proud.
African athletes won’t be left out in this quest, so in this regard based on performances in their various events this year, here’s a preview on the top African athletes to watch out for at the 16th edition of the IAAF World Championships in London.
The men’s 100m is one of the most anticipated events at the Championship. If not for any reason, but for fans to witness the final race of multiple WR holder, Usain Bolt on the track which will mark an end to his remarkable career.
While the spotlight will be on Bolt to do his winning magic one last time, one cannot take away the threat that other athletes pose, especially in African stars such as Akani Simbine and Ben Youssef Meite.
South Africa’s Simbine, has been in outstanding form this year as he has clocked several sub-10s this season bringing his tally to a career high of 14. He currently has a Season’s Best (SB) of 9.92s, which sits him at No.3 on the IAAF world list, thereby placing him as one of the top contenders for the top three positions in the event, provided he executes his race adequately.
In the same vein, Meite will also be gunning for his first international medal. The Ivorian record holder currently has a SB of 9.98s, which was set last month at the Lausanne Diamond League. He has proven in times past to be a huge competitor, one that cannot be written off to challenge for a podium placement.
Interestingly, both athletes were finalist at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, with Simbine getting the edge by finishing fifth in 9.95s, while Meite was just a second behind in a NR of 9.96s. This brings in the probability of either of them taking it two or three steps higher in London.
The women’s category proves to be even more competitive from the African side, with nothing less than three ladies from the Continent having their eyes set on the medal positions.
Top on the list is the Continent’s fastest woman ever, Mureille Ahoure who has a Personal Best (PB) of 10.78s. The Ivorian has had a lukewarm season thus far, with her most impressive performance being in Florida, where she recorded the third fastest time in the world this year clocking 10.83s. With this time and by her Silver medal winning performance in Russia four years ago, she can never be written off to add another medal to her collection.
Following in swiftly behind Ahoure is her countrywoman Marie-Josee TaLou. In fact, a talk about potential medalists in the women’s sprints without mentioning TaLou, is like placing Bolt on the track and expecting him not to run fast.
TaLou has grown in leaps and bounds in the past two years, matching up the world’s best sprinters in every race. She was the 2015 African Games Double Champion, and at the 2016 Rio Olympics, she surprisingly placed 4th in the 100m clocking a PB of 10.86s, before going on to finish 4th again in the 200m.
This year, she has a SB 100m time of 10.90s, and set a PB/ Ivorian Record of 22.16s; in each races finishing closely behind Olympic Champion, Elaine Thompson and World Champion, Dafne Schippers. With TaLou racing at her best in London, it can’t be farfetched to say the AR’s in both events are under threat, and a medal in at least either of the event is possible.
Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor completes the list expectedly. The former AR holder in this event may not be favourite on paper to get a podium finish, but her SB of 10.99s gives intent of her running faster when it matters most.
When the one lap event gets underway on Saturday, the names that’ll be on the lips of Athletics faithful around the world are: South Africa’s Wayde Van Niekerk and Isaac Makwala as they go head to head against each other.
Van Niekerk is the reigning World and Olympic Champion, WR and AR holder in the event, having set a smashing time of 43.03s on his way to victory in Rio last year. He is the World Leader in the event with a time of 43.62s, and looked good for the Gold medal once again; not until Botswana’s Makwala bounced back on the scene less than a month ago.
Makwala had a date with history at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Madrid, where he became the first man ever to clock a sub-44s (43.92s) and sub-20s (19.77s) on the same day, thereby sounding warning to his competitors that he’s in to get a medal in London.
Just a week later at the Monaco Diamond League, Makwala showed his performance in the Spanish city was no fluke, as he almost upstaged Van Niekerk for the win. The South African had to dig deep in the last 30m to get the needed victory, clocking 43.73s while Makwala was close behind in 43.84s. This is the closest any quatermiler has gotten to the WR holder in two years, thereby raising questions from pundits if he’s indeed beatable.
Interestingly, both men will compete in both the 200m and 400m at the World Championships, leaving a mouth-watering clash between the duo at the world level.
The absence of WR holder and reigning World Champion, David Rudisha is meant to spark a bit of concern from the African angle if the title will remain in the Continent.
However, the comeback of Botswana’s Nigel Amos and emergence of new kid sensation in Kenya’s Emmanuel Korir, has erased such thoughts.
Amos was a Silver medallist in the event at the London 2012 Olympic Games, but a loss of form and injuries affected his performances at major championships, since he won the 2014 Commonwealth title.
The African Games Champion peaked at the right time this year, winning two Diamond League meetings, the best recorded in London where he raced to a SB of 1:43.18, to sit at No.2 on the world rankings.
Meanwhile, Kenya’s new breakout athlete in the event, Korir is the world leader in the event with a PB of 1:43.10. The NCAA Champion will be making his debut at the World’s, which will put out an exciting expectation to see how both men will go against each other for their first World Championships medal.
Men’s Long Jump
South Africa’s Luvo Manyonga is the world’s best in the world this year, being unbeaten in all his competitions. He has four of the farthest jumps in the world this season, all above 8.60m. With a world lead of 8.65m which is a new AR, it can be said that the26-year old has only himself to stop from soaring further.