Nigeria's Blessing Okagbare celebrates after winning the 100m (© Getty Images)
Almost all of the winners on the second day of action at the African Championships in Marrakech on Tuesday (11) either broke some form of record or added another gold medal to a previous victory from a past edition of these championships.
Or, in the cases of Blessing Okagbare and Larbi Bourrada, they achieved both.
Nigeria’s Okagbare was fresh from winning the Commonwealth Games sprint double just two weeks ago, but she showed no signs of tiredness. And just like at the Commonwealth Games, Okagbare won the 100m in a championship record.
This time, not only did she face double world silver medallist Murielle Ahoure, but she also had to contest with a stiff -1.4m/s headwind. She dealt with both, though, and came through strong at the end to win in 11.00, taking 0.03 off the championship record she set when winning this title in 2010.
It was her fifth gold medal from the African Championships. In 2010 she won the 100m, long jump and 4x100m, then two years later she picked up another gold medal in the long jump.
“When I saw Ahoure in front of me, I did not panic,” said Okagbare, who became the first athlete ever to win the Commonwealth and African 100m titles in the same year. “I stayed patient, I pushed through and I won.”
Ahoure took the silver medal in 11.03 from compatriot Marie Josee Ta Lou, who set a PB of 11.20.
While Nigeria took gold ahead of two Ivorian sprinters in the women’s 100m, the opposite happened in the men’s 100m.
Ivory Coast’s Hua Wilfried Koffi set a national record of 10.05 (0.4m/s) to hold off Nigerian duo Mark Jelks and Monzavous Edwards, who clocked 10.07 and 10.16 respectively.
Bourrada wins third African decathlon title
Having led from the outset and after posting the top marks in eight of the 10 events, Algeria’s Larbi Bourrada was a comfortable winner of the men’s decathlon.
He didn’t rest on his laurels, though. Instead, he pushed himself in each event and was rewarded with a national record of 8311, breaking his own championship record from four years ago.
After building up a huge lead on day one, following a 10.90 clocking in the 100m, a 7.45m leap in the long jump, a 13.20m heave in the shot, a 2.04m clearance in the high jump and a 48.33 performance in the 400m, the 26-year-old extended his winning margin on the second day.
He began with a personal best of 14.33 to win the 110m hurdles, then followed it with a 39.99m throw in the discus before clearing 4.90m in the pole vault. A 64.60m effort in the javelin brought his total to 7500 with one event remaining – a score that no one else in the field exceeded after all 10 events.
But with a national record in his sights, Bourrada pushed hard in the 1500m and clocked 4:20.05, bringing his score to 8311.
African record-holder Willem Coertzen withdrew before the 400m, having been in the silver medal position. Ghana’s Atsu Nyamadi ended the first day in second place overall, but a no-height in the pole vault proved costly and he ultimately had to settle for the bronze medal behind Guillaume Thierry of Mauritius, 7312 to 6946.
The decathlon at the African Championships also formed part of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge.
Ayana surprises Dibaba
Perhaps one of the biggest shocks so far at the African Championships came in the women’s 5000m.
It was also one of the most highly anticipated events as world indoor 3000m champion Genzebe Dibaba was up against world silver medallist and Commonwealth champion Mercy Cherono and world bronze medallist Almaz Ayana.
Ultimately there was no contest, but it was perhaps the least favoured of that trio who came away the victor.
Ayana finished almost 10 seconds ahead of Dibaba, winning in 15:32.72 to take eight seconds off the championship record. Meanwhile, Cherono was a well-beaten fifth in 16:08.81, the third of the trio of Kenyans to cross the line. Janet Kisa took the bronze medal in 15:54.05 ahead of Margaret Wangare.
Three gold medals for South Africa
South Africa achieved their first ever sweep of the long jump medals at the African Championships.
Zarck Visser led from the outset, opening with a wind-assisted 8.04m. Godfrey Mokoena challenged Visser’s lead with almost every round, jumping 7.95m, 8.02m and 7.97m with his first three leaps.
Visser then extended his lead to 8.08m in round four, which proved a bit too far for Mokoena on the night as the 2010 champion had to settle for silver. Compatriot Rushwal Samaai took the bronze with his windy 7.84m jump.
All three athletes had won medals at the recent Commonwealth Games, although on that occasion each of the medals were a different colour. Mokoena took gold in the triple jump, while Samaai earned the silver in the long jump with Visser taking bronze.
It was just the third time in the history of the championships that one nation had won all of the men’s long jump medals. Nigeria achieved the feat in 1979 and 1984.
Two more medals went to South Africa in the men’s discus. Like Visser in the long jump, Victor Hogan took an early lead and never surrendered it.
Hogan’s best throw of 62.87m came in the third round as he successfully defended his title from two years ago. Team-mate Russell Tucker finished a close second with 62.15m.
South Africa’s third gold medal of the evening came in the first final of the day as Rikenette Steenkamp won the women’s 100m hurdles in 13.26.
Elsewhere, Tunisian pole vaulter Syrine Ebondo became just the second woman in the history of the championships to win six individual titles. She successfully defended her title from two years ago with a clearance of 4.10m, bringing her tally of gold medals level with Algerian discus thrower Zoubida Laayouni.
Stage set for epic 800m final
All of the big favourites advanced from the men’s 800m semi-finals. World champion Mohammed Aman and Olympic silver medallist Nijel Amos were drawn in the same heat, but both of them finished in an automatic qualifying spot, Aman winning from Amos, 1:46.63 to 1:46.73.
Kenyan champion Ferguson Cheruiyot won the first heat in 1:45.80, while compatriot Evans Kipkorir won the third heat in 1:48.66 with Olympic 1500m champion Taoufik Makhloufi grabbing the last of the qualifying spots in second place (1:48.90).
African record-holder Isaac Makwala and Botswanan team-mate Pako Seribe were the fastest qualifiers for the men’s 400m final, clocking 45.58 and 45.62 respectively.
Nicholas Bett was the top performer in the men’s 400m hurdles heats, clocking 49.33 – the fastest performance by a Kenyan athlete for 15 years. Commonwealth champion Cornel Fredericks also easily advanced, winning his heat in 50.15.
Zambia’s Munpopo Kabange led the qualifiers from the women’s 400m heats in a PB of 51.54 ahead of a trio of Nigerians: Patience Okon (51.55), Ada Benjamin (51.68) and Folashade Abugan (52.09).
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF