Ben Youssef Meite after winning the 100m at the All-Africa Games (© AFP / Getty Images)
For the first time ever, Ivory Coast won both the men’s and women’s 100m titles at the All-African Games, with Ben Youssef Meite and Marie-Josee Ta Lou dominating their events in Brazzaville.
The gold medal was particularly significant for Meite, and not only because he has returned to form this season after two years of illness and injury. His father Amadou – who passed away last year – had won this title in 1978 and was the last athlete from the Ivory Coast to win gold in the 100m at the All-African Games.
Miete didn’t get off to a great start in the final, but came through strong in the second half to win in a national record of 10.04. His time is all the more impressive, given it was run into a -2.1m/s headwind.
Nigeria’s Egwero Ogho-Ogene, who had equalled his PB of 10.06 in the semi-final, took silver in 10.17. Meite’s compatriot Wilfried Koffi was third in 10.23.
Meite’s Ivorian team-mate Marie-Josee Ta Lou, who narrowly missed out on making the 100m and 200m finals at the recent IAAF World Championships in Beijing, emphatically won the women’s 100m final.
Streaking away over the final 50 metres, Ta Lou crossed the line in a PB of 11.02 to take 0.01 off the Games record set by Mercy Nku in 1999. Kenya’s Eunice Kadogo was a distant second, albeit in a national record of 11.47.
Third-time lucky for Makwala
Botswana’s African 400m champion Isaac Makwala was making his third appearance at the All-Africa Games. Having finished seventh in 2011 and missing out on the final in 2007, this time he came away with gold.
The 28-year-old, who earlier this year clocked a national record of 43.72, won with ease in 44.35, just missing out on Innocent Egbunike’s Games record of 44.23. Kenya’s Boniface Mweresa was second in a PB of 45.01, while Makwala’s team-mate Onkabetse Nkobolo was third in 45.50.
“It was not easy but I came here for the win,” he said. “This was my fifth individual medal at either the African Championships or the All-African Games and I wanted to win this one for myself.”
Zambia’s Kabange Mupopo was similarly dominant in the women’s race. The footballer-turned-sprinter moved up a gear at half way to pull away from the field and win in a national record of 50.22. Nigeria’s Patience George was second in 50.71.
Gold for Ethiopia over 10,000m and 1500m
Tebalu Zawude kept the All-Africa Games 10,000m title on Ethiopian soil in an exciting race over 25 laps.
Seven men – Ethiopia’s Zewude, Adugna Takele and Mule Wasihun, Kenya’s Leonard Barsoton, Vincent Yator and Geoffrey Kipkorir and Eritrea’s Afewerki Berhane – began to pull away from the rest of the field after half way, which was reached in 13:43.42.
Wasihun was the first of those to fade, leaving six mean in the lead pack. With five laps to go, just four men – Zewude, Takele, Barsoton and Yator – were left to battle for the three medals.
Yator was finally broken with two laps to go with Zewude still forcing the pace out in front. African cross-country champion Barsoton overtook Takele at the start of the last lap and then moved into the lead on the back straight. But Zewude wasn’t finished and crept back into contention on the home straight, drawing level with Barsoton with 60 metres to go and then pulling clear by a couple of strides, winning in 27:27.19.
Barsoton – trying to become the first Kenyan winner of this title since 1995 – had to settle for silver in 27:27.55 with Takele taking bronze in 27:28.40.
Ethiopia’s Mekonnen Gebremedhin made up for the disappointment of missing out on the World Championships final by taking gold in the 1500m.
The 2012 world indoor bronze medallist began his sustained kick at the bell. With 200m to go, world junior record-holder Ronald Kwemoi looked set to challenge for the lead, but Gebremedhin kept his cool as the Kenyan faded.
Gebremedhin crossed the line in 3:45.73 with Djibouti’s Abdi Waiss Mouhyadin taking silver in 3:45.98. Kwemoi finished fourth behind Algeria’s Salim Keddar.
Kenya dominates steeplechase and 5000m
The first title to be decided was the men’s steeplechase, in which Clement Kemboi took the biggest win of his career. The Kenyan had finished in the top five at four IAAF Diamond League meetings this year, but in Brazzaville he was the undisputed winner.
Youth Olympic champion Wogene Sebisibe hit the front with three laps to go, which broke up the pack. By the end of that lap, just five men were left in contention: Kemboi, Kenyan team-mate Hillary Kemboi, Sebisibe and fellow Ethiopians Hailemariam Amare and Chala Beyo.
Kemboi hit the front with 700 metres to go and continued to pull away from the remaining challengers. He started celebrating even before the final water jump and went on to win in 8:20.31. Team-mate Hillary Kemboi and Amare overtook Sebisibe on the final lap to take silver and bronze respectively in 8:22.96 and 8:24.19.
With Kenya taking gold and silver ahead of Ethiopia in the men’s event, the fortunes were reversed in the women’s 3000m steeplechase.
The opening pace was slow with the first kilometre covered in 3:34. Kenya’s Magdalene Masai fell at the water jump just after half way, colliding with Algeria’s Amina Bettiche, but both athletes soon got back into the race.
Masai then darted into the lead with one kilometre to go. One lap later, Masai and Ethiopian duo Sofia Assefa and Hiwot Ayalew appeared to be away and clear. Ayalew led from Assefa going into the final lap and they began to pull away. Then Kenya’s Purity Cherotich caught team-mate Masai on the final water jump to move into third.
Assefa sprinted away to win in 9:51.30, 0.64 ahead of Ayalew. Cherotich took bronze in 9:52.54.
The closest finish so far in a track event at the All-Africa Games has been in the women’s 5000m. Margaret Chelimo led a Kenyan 1-2-3, winning from Rosemary Wanjiru by just three hundredths of a second in 15:30.15. Alice Aprot was third in 15:31.82.
Games records for Alkana, Elemba and Bambara
Aside from Ta Lou in the women’s 100m, several other Games records have been broken already in Brazzaville.
South Africa’s Antonio Alkana smashed his PB to win the 110m hurdles in a Games record of 13.32, while the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Franck Elemba won the host nation’s first athletics gold medal of the event by throwing a Games record of 20.25m in the shot put.
Games records were also set by Burkina Faso’s Leititia Bambara in the hammer, 66.91m, Tunisia’s Syrine Balti in the pole vault, 4.10m, and Kenya’s Grace Wanjiru in the women’s 20km race walk, 1:38:28.
Elsewhere, Tosin Oke won a close triple jump contest, beating team-mate Olumide Olamigoke by two centimetres with 17.00m, while 2009 world champion Caster Semenya comfortably won the women’s 800m in 2:00.97.
Nigerian 18-year-old Oluwatobiloba Amusan impressed in the 100m hurdles, winning in 13.15, having clocked an African junior record of 13.11 in the heats. She will still be a junior next year.
After three days of action, the athletics at the All-Africa Games continues on Wednesday and Thursday (16-17).
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF