Isaac Makwala of Botswana after winning the 400m (© Getty Images)
African 400m record-holder Isaac Makwala went to the recent Commonwealth Games as one of Botswana’s best hopes for a medal, but missed out on making the final by 0.02. On Tuesday (12), the third day of action at the African Championships in Marrakech, however, he made no such mistakes.
Makwala was fastest in the heats and semi-finals and duly led the way in the final. He won comfortably from South African record-holder Wayde van Niekerk, smashing the championship record in the process with a winning time of 44.23, the fastest 400m performance ever recorded at sea level in Africa.
He also succeeded in defending his title from two years ago, this time doing so with the second-fastest performance of his life; just 0.22 shy of the African record he set earlier this year.
Amos, Fredericks and Brume add African titles to Commonwealth gold
Makwala’s team-mate Nijel Amos added another gold medal to Botswana’s tally by winning the 800m, one of the most eagerly awaited event of the championships.
Amos was up against world champion Mohammed Aman and Olympic champion Taoufik Makhloufi, but after a pedestrian opening lap of 57.37, he used his finishing speed to great effect once more to win the tactical final in 1:48.54.
Aman finished 0.2 behind to take silver, with Makhloufi picking up the bronze medal with 1:49.08.
It was Amos’s second major title of the summer, having won Commonwealth gold two weeks ago. And he wasn’t the only athlete this evening to complete that same double.
South African 400m hurdler Cornel Fredericks followed his Commonwealth triumph with gold in Marrakech, winning in 48.78 from Nigeria’s Amaechi Morton.
Nigerian long jumper Ese Brume likewise collected her second championship gold medal of 2014, leaping 6.50m to win from compatriot Chinazom Amadi.
Obiri and Birech win gold for Kenya
After winning medals at three consecutive global championships, Hellen Obiri landed her first continental title by winning the 1500m.
After a final 300m of 41.67, the world bronze medallist and 2012 world indoor champion won by almost one-and-a-half seconds from world junior champion Dawit Seyaum, 4:09.53 to 4:10.92.
In a high-quality final, defending champion Rababe Arafi, competing in front of her home crowd, had to make do with bronze on this occasion. World indoor silver medallist Axumawit Embaye was fourth with Commonwealth champion Faith Kipyegon fifth.
Kenya bagged more medals – three of them, in fact – in the men’s 3000m steeplechase. After being beaten by compatriot Jonathan Ndiku at the Commonwealth Games, world leader Jairus Birech exacted his revenge to take gold in 8:34.79 ahead of Ndiku (8:37.67).
Two-time Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi replicated his finish from the Commonwealth Games, taking the bronze medal.
Surprisingly, it was just the second time ever at the African Championships that Kenya had swept the medals in the men’s 3000m steeplechase – arguably their nation’s strongest event. Kenya has actually achieved more medal sweeps in the men’s steeplechase at global championships than they have done at the African Championships.
More gold medals for Nigeria
Having won the 100m title yesterday, Blessing Okagbare returned to the track to anchor Nigeria to gold in the women’s 4x100m. They won comfortably in 43.56, and just like in the 100m, finished ahead of Ivory Coast, who took silver in 43.99, despite the absence of double world silver medallist Murielle Ahoure.
Buoyed by 100m silver and bronze medallists Mark Jelks and Monzavous Edwards, Nigeria also won the men’s 4x100m, clocking 38.80 to beat Ghana (39.28).
In the women’s one-lap sprint, Nigeria’s Folashade Abugan was given the verdict in a photo-finish ahead of Zambia’s Kabange Mupopo as both athletes crossed the line in 51.21. But Mupopo could at least find some consolation in the fact that her time was a national record.
Nigeria’s fifth gold medal of the day came in the women’s discus, which was won by Chinwe Okoro with a national record of 59.79m. All four of her valid throws would have been enough to win from teenage team-mate Nikki Okwelogu.
Hosts Morocco secured their first gold medal of the championships as Rhizlane Siba won the women’s high jump on count-back from Egypt’s Besnet Mohamed. Both athletes cleared 1.80, but Siba did so on her first attempt, while Mohamed needed three tries.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF