This is an interesting piece on big wishes for African Athletics by Deji Ogeyingbo. 

Five big wishes for African Athletics in 2023

The year 2022 was a big one for African Athletes. From Tobi Amusan and Eliud Kipchoge breaking the world record in the women’s 100m Hurdles and the marathon, to African Championships in Mauritius thrilling fans on the continent to some undiluted action, it has laid the marker for what to expect in 2023.

As expected, the World Championships will top the billing of what to watch out for in 2023, but look out for big exploits from African Athletes in the African Games, Diamond League, and the NCAA circuit in the United States.

Here are some of the five big wishes for African Athletics over the next 12 months. 

 

1. Letsile Tebogo to break the men’s African Record in the 100m

Africa has a very rich history of producing some of the world’s best sprinters in the last three decades.  Frankie Fredricks, Francis Obikwelu, Olusoji Fasuba, Akani Simbine, and more recently, Ferdinand Omanyala are some of the few that have thrilled the sprinting world. Strangely, the continent is still yet to win its first medalist over the 100m at a world championship.

Letsile Tebogo, Botswana, 100m gold, photo by Marta Gorczynska for World Athletics

However, there is a growing feeling that the wheel of fortune will soon turn in Africa’s favor, all thanks to Letsile Tebogo of Botswana. The teenage sensation took the world by storm in 2022 when he beat former world champions Yohan Blake and Simbine in his 100m heats and reached the semi-final at the World Championships in Oregon. 

He followed it up with a stunning performance at the World U20 Championships in Cali, Colombia in which he lowered his own junior record from 9.94 to 9.91s on his way to defending his title. It was his manner of celebration that endeared him to onlookers as he reprised Usain Bolt’s celebration. 

Now in his full season as a senior athlete, there are indications that Tebogo will reach his full potential this year. With the way he took apart the World Junior record this year; he surely will have his eyes fixed on breaking Omanyala’s African Record of 9.77s.

If it happens, it will be the first time in history the record has been broken twice in the span of two years. Also, Tebogo will become the second African sprinter to break the 9.80s barrier over the distance. 

2. The African Games to hold in Ghana in 2023

The African Games are the Olympics for Africa. It has a tradition that dates back to 1965 and 12 editions after, there are growing concerns that Ghana might not be ready to host the event yet. 

The country is struggling to meet timelines for the delivery of infrastructure for next August’s competition, while the timing of the games also makes participation tricky for the continent’s top athletes.

Ferdinand Omanyala, 2022 African Athletics Championships, photo by Deji Ogeyingbo

Also, there is a major disagreement over marketing rights between the African Union (AU), the Association of African Olympic Committees (ANOCA), and the Association of African Sports Confederations (UCSA) – three organizations that usually collaborate for the games – are threatening the delivery of the event.

Before the Rabat Games in 2019, AU signed a tripartite agreement with ANOCA and UCSA that gave the AU ownership of the games; the marketing and management aspects entrusted to ANOCA, and the technical aspects of the games entrusted to UCSA.

With the African Union renegading on the agreement, there are indications that if things are not resolved on time, the Games which are slated to take place in August might not hold. 

 

3. Ethiopia to follow the queue of Kenya and top the medals table at the World Championships

At the last World Championships in Oregon, Ethiopia finished second on the medals table with a total of 10 medals. As expected, the host United States of America topped the medals table. 

Werkehew Getachew, African Champs, photo by Deji Ogeyingbo

As should be the case when the Championships move to Budapest in 2023. But the Ethiopians are moving fast with their impeccable list of athletes’ rise in the middle- and long-distance events. 

Kenya is the only African country to ever top the medals table in the history of the champs and that came on the backdrop of some unprecedented dominance in these events. 

The likes of Gudaf Tsegay and Werkuha Getachew are shoe-ins to upgrade their Silver in the women’s 1500m and 3000m Steeplechase this year, while Lamecha Girma is expected to come back stronger in the men’s Steeplechase. 

 

4. That the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) should do more to publicize the sport on the continent and give more credence to the sport

If you fell from the sky in 2023 and you were to be shown some of the big athletics events from 2022, there is a 5% chance that you will see anything relating to African Athletics. Unsurprisingly because the African Championships took place in Mauritius in June of last year, there is almost little or no footprint that it happened, except for the stories journalists like me brought up during the champs. 

Mike Edwards, 2022 Nigerian Athletics Championships, photo by Deji Ogeyingbo

That alone tells you how the organizing body, the CAA do almost nothing in publicizing the sport in Africa. Events were difficult to stream to a large part of the continent, the organization was poor, and there was minimal use of Digital mechanisms to grow the sport at its flagship competition. A lot surely has to change with regards to that, starting with ensuring that there is a proper media channel to access information at an elementary level, an up-to-date website, and most importantly, proper delivery of content to make lovers of the sport glued. 

 

5. Either of the Kenyans or Ethiopians to break the women’s marathon record this year

The year 2022 brought us so many subplots in the marathon with so many runners shattering their Personal Bests while some who made their debut ran inside 2:20. 

Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei still holds the marathon record of 2:14:04 from her run in Chicago in 2019, but the record came within whiskers of falling last year. 

Tigist Assefa, 2022 BMW Berlin Marathon, photo by World Marathon Majors

In October 2022, Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich got within striking distance of Kosgei’s record at Chicago. The 28-year-old ran 2:14:28. Two weeks prior, Ethiopian Tigist Assefa ran 2:15:37, within striking distance of Kosgei’s record too — again, a time once thought impossible. 

Since then, there have been eighteen performances by 12 women that have gone sub-2:18:00. Ten of those performances happened in 2021 or 2022. Sixteen have happened in the past five years, two of those years were pandemic years.

The Ethiopian trio of Letesenbet Gidey, Almaz Ayana, and Yalemzerf Yehualaw all made their debut last year and ran very fast times, all inside 2:18, too. 2023 surely promises to live up to the standard of last year. 

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