Four finals were decided on the first day of track and field at the African Games at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat on Monday (26) with Kenya winning two of those as Benjamin Kigen and Lilian Kasait Rengeruk won the men’s 3000m steeplechase and women’s 5000m respectively.
Home favourite Soufiane El Bakkali, who came to the championship on the tail of his victory at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris two days ago, fought hard but was unable to stop his Kenyan rival who eventually won the race in 8:12.39. Only El Bakkali has run faster than the Kenyan this season, having clocked a season’s best of 8:05.12 in Monaco last month. Ethiopia’s Getnet Wale was second with 8:14.06.
It appeared that the Moroccan was still trying to recover from a foot injury he sustained while running in Paris, and he eventually settled for third with 8:19.45, but the world silver medallist still received a rousing applause from the home crowd.
With about two laps to go, world and Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto withdrew from the race as a precaution as he didn’t want to aggravate his recent injuries ahead of the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019.
Rengeruk provided Kenya with their second gold medal of the day after holding off a strong Ethiopian contingent to win the women’s 5000m. Hawi Feysa and Alemitu Tariku tried to give chase on the final lap but couldn’t catch the 2017 world cross-country bronze medallist, who won in 15:33.63. Feysa took silver in 15:33.99 with Tariku finishing third in 15:37.15.
Nigeria and Egypt dominate field events
In the absence of Ghana’s Nadia Eke who is the only African athlete to have gone past the 14-metre mark in the women’s triple jump in 2019, Nigeria’s Grace Anigbata won the title with a season’s best of 13.75m, finishing ahead of Morocco’s Jamaa Chnaik (13.69m) and South Africa’s Zinzi Chabangu (13.59m).
Egypt’s Shehab Ahmed won the men’s discus with 59.29m. Ayomidotun Ogundeji’s last-round throw of 57.82m earned the Nigerian the silver medal, while Morocco’s Mohammed Mbarki took the bronze with 56.92m, much to the delight of the home fans.
Ta Lou poised for successful title defence
The men’s and women’s 100m heats and semis got underway on Monday, as well as the 400m heats.
World silver medallist Marie Josee Ta Lou and Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare won their respective 100m heats, with the Ivoirian taking her race in 11.48 from Aminatou Seyni (11.84), and Okagbare clocking 11.53 to win her heat.
Ta Lou and Okagbare were then drawn in the same semifinal, but the Nigerian was disqualified for a false start, leaving the coast clear for Ta Lou ahead of Tuesday’s final.
Nigeria’s Raymond Ekevwo was the fastest through the first two rounds of the men’s 100m, winning his heat in 10.20 and dominating his semifinal in 10.26. His compatriot Usheoritse Itsekiri was also impressive, taking the win in his heat in 10.27 to finish ahead of Ivory Coast’s Arthur Cisse who placed third in 10.30.
The line-up for Tuesday’s final includes Gambia’s Ebrahima Camara (10.27), Ghana’s pair of Paul Josep Amoah (10.36) and Sean Safo-Antwi (10.41), and South Africa’s duo of Thandolwenkosi Dlodlo (10.38) and Chederick Van Wyk.
South Africa’s Derrick Mokaleng had the fastest time across the men’s 400m heats, clocking 46.41 in a keenly contested race. Defending champion Isaac Makwala of Botswana, making his final outing at the African Games, had to settle for fifth in his heat and failed to advance to the semis.
African U18 champion Favour Ofili was the fastest woman across all 400m heats in the women’s event, dominating her race with a time of 52.20. The other heat winners were Mary Moraa of Kenya (52.31), Muwaye Beatrice Masilingi (53.33) and Galefele Moroko (52.70).
Yemi Olus for the IAAF