PortoNovo, BeninBurger Lambrechts and World 400m champion Amantle Montsho headlined a challenging day one of competition on Wednesday (27) at the African Athletics Championships marred by heavy rains and several false starts.
South Africa’s Lambrechts, a two-time World Championships finalist, grabbed the first championship gold medal, as he successfully defended his Shot Put title with a throw of 19.51m, while Gabonese Ruddy Zang Milama stirred the crowds in the opening round of the 100m dash, which she won in 11.33 at the Stade de Gaulle in Porto-Novo.
Lambrechts retains title
Lambrechts, whose 20.63m career best dates back to 2004, was shy of his 20.12m season's best from February but still dominated the competition.
His compatriot Orazio Cremona improved on his bronze from Nairobi two years ago with his best throw of 19.19m coming in the second round after an opening 17.12m and 18.90 in the third.
Egyptian Yasser Ibrahim with 18.78m squeezed in for the bronze.
The other field final, the women’s Hammer Throw, was rained off midway and could be rerun on the final day, 1 July.
The evening track events - 100m semi-finals, the men’s 800m qualifying heats and the men’s 10,000m final - were all rescheduled to Thursday due to a waterlogged track.
Montsho through to 400m semi-finals
Defending 400m champion Montsho of Botswana, had an easy qualification from heat two in 50.42, Wednesday’s fastest ahead of Nigerian Regina Grause who timed 51.39.
But the day’s loudest cheers belonged to South African Oscar Pistorius, who continued his chase for Olympic qualification mark in Benin with the third fastest time of 46.32 behind the winner Isaac Makwala in 45.50.
Pistorius had a good start off the blocks and went head to head with Makwala and Libyan Mohamed Khwaja (46.40), the surprise winner from Nairobi two years, until the second last bend when he fell off the pace but he managed to master enough energy to dip for second.
Elsewhere, Zang Milama, the silver medallist in the 100m at the last championships, hardly broke a sweat in her 11.33 qualifying win in the absence of Ivorian Muriele Ahouré, who like many of the African stars opted to skip the meet and focus preparations on the Olympics.
Nigerian Blessing Okagbare, looking to defend the three titles she won two years ago, was dominant in her 11.60 win from heat one.
Abdourahim Haroun of Chad topped the men’s qualifying heats (10.28) marred by several false starts that claimed the scalp of the 2010 African champion Ben Youssef Meite.
"This is the first false start in my career. So now I have to put all my energy into the 200m event," Meite said disappointed by his disqualification.
Senegalese Gnima Faye topped the women’s 110m hurdles heats in 13.92 with Nigerian Semi Adigun second(14:03).