PortoNovo, BeninWorld 400m champion Amantle Montsho of Botswana defended her title with a championship record and national record mark of 49.54 on Friday (29) as compatriot Isaac Makwala picked the country’s first individual men’s gold at the African event.
Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare impressed in her Long Jump title defence with a massive 6.96m leap, making up for the disappointment of missing the gold in the women’s 100m dash.
Easy win for Monthsho as Makwala wins historic gold
As expected Montsho was in a class of her own in the women’s 400m as she headed out strongly focusing on a decent time, leaving Nigerian Regina Grouse, South African Tsholofelo Thipe and Senegalese Amy Mbacke Thiam way behind in a tight race for the silver.
Montsho’s comfortable and rather easy run was well inside of her 49.83 championships mark from 2008 and 0.02 better than her previous national record set when winning the World title last year. Grouse won the silver battle in 51.11 ahead of Thiam (51.68).
"The main thing here was to win the gold for my country and the championship record is a plus for me, because the field was not strong at all," offered Montsho as she prepares to race in Paris next week and London before the Olympics.
"It was a good test of form as I head towards London where the races will be more closely contested."
Makwala opted for a slow start in the men’s race that also included Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee runner, whose Olympic qualification race continued.
Makwala, a semi-finalist in Daegu, cruised through the last 100m with the South African duo of Willaim De Beer and Pistorius charging at him as he crossed the line in a PB of 45.25, well within Olympic A qualifying standard. Pistorius timed at 45.52 with De Beer settling for bronze in 45.67.
"This was what I wanted here in Benin the gold just the way I planned it," said Makwala, who trains in Jamaica.
"I started slowly because I knew that if I go too hard they are strong and they will beat me in the last 100."
"I have two races lined up next week in Brussels and then Lignano, Italy so am still hopeful I will make the London team," Pistorius said.
Nigerian youngster Amechi Morton won a dramatic 400m Hurdles race, that saw the World championship bronze medal winner L.J. van Zyl pull out midway and Mozambican Kurt Cuoto tumble out.
Morton, went out hard from the start and was in firm control of the race at the second last bend when the race defending champion Van Zyl running in the inner most lane slowed down, as Senegalese Mamadou Hanne and Kenyan Bernard Mucheru, World youth finalist piled pressure on the Nigerian.
Morton who is based and born in the US to Nigerian parents, was rewarded with his first major career win in 49.32, that could as well convince him to carry on racing for the West African nation.
Hanne beat Mucheru just on the line for the silver in 49.39 with the Kenyan returning 49.45, an Olympic A standard.
"I came here with a positive mind set not really bothered who I would be racing. I was ready to fight and make a mark for my country Nigeria."
Okagbare rebounds with Long Jump gold
Okagbare looking to go past the seven-metre line for the first time won the women’s Long Jump with her second round leap of 6.96m, a PB.
South African duo of Janice Joseph (6.29m) and Lynique Prinsloo (6.22m) were way off for second and third respectively.
Senegalese African record holder in the women’s Hammer Throw Amy Sene retained her title with a throw of 65.55m as Lissa Labiche of Seychelles clinched their country’s third gold medal in the championships history in women’s High Jump in 1.86m.
South African Victor Hogan rounded up the country’s fielders medal haul at Charles de Galle stadium with a winning throw of 61.80m in the Discus.
North Africans outpace Kenyans in 800 and 1500m
Kenyans Antony Chemut, third behind World record holder David Rudisha at the Kenyan Olympic trials last weekend, and teammate Cornelius Kiplagat were poised to win the gold and silver in the men’s 800m but a bungled team tactic gifted Algerian Taoufik Makhloufi the gold medal.
After an impressive 49.85 opening lap pace, Chemut ran out of steam in the homestretch as the Algerian eased past him for his biggest career victory in 1:43.88 with Chemut timed at 1:44.53 and Kiplagat way off in 1:45.09.
The women’s 1500m was yet another case of pacing up too early for Kenyans Margaret Wangari, second at the Olympic trials in Nairobi, and Mary Kuria.
Coming to the last bend Kuria, looked poised for the gold but had no response to Morocco’s Rabab Arafi’s burst in the last 150 metres as she sped away for victory in an impressive 4:05.80, a new championship record.
Kuria (4:06.22) and Wangari (4:06.50) both ran within the old mark of 4:08.25.
Kenya’s Abel Mutai and Wilson Kipkemboi however managed to hold off a resilient Ugandan challenge from Benjamin Kiplagat to retain the 3000m Steeplechase gold and silver they won in Nairobi.
Mutai who qualified for the Olympics third behind World and Olympic champions Brimin Kipruto and Ezekiel Kemboi crossed the line in 8:16.05 ahead of Kipkemboi (8:16.96).
Kiplagat had one of his best career races that earned him the bronze in 8:18.73.
South Africa tops the medal standings with 4 Gold, 7 Silver 5 bronze ahead of Kenya (4,6,3) with Nigeria lying third (3,1,1).
Evelyn Watta (sportsnewsarena.com) for the IAAF
Selected Results: Men - 400m 1. Isaac Makwala, Botswana, 45.25 seconds 2. Oscar Pistrorus, South Africa, 45.52 3. Willem De Beer, South Africa, 45.67
800m 1. Taoufik Makhloufi(ALG) 1:43.88 2. Anthony Chemut(KEN) 1:44.53 3. Andre Oliver(SA) 1:45.09
3000m Steeplechase 1. Abel Mutai(KEN) 8:16.05 2. Wilson Kipkemboi(KEN) 8:16.96 3. Benjamin Kiplagat(UGA) 8:18.73