The 17th edition of the World Athletics Championships started on Friday, September 27, 2019 and was a successful outing for the African continent, as athletes outshone the heat over 10 days.
A total of 1,972 athletes from 208 countries and territories competed in the championships, which were being staged in the Middle East for the first time.
9 African countries made it to the medals table, with Kenya’s 5 gold medals earning it second place in the world, just behind leaders the United States.
Burkina Faso won its first ever medal at the World Athletics Championships.
Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich won the event’s first gold medal, in the women’s marathon last Friday, while Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei won the last medal, winning gold in the men’s 10,000m.
In this article, we will follow the progress of African athletes, celebrating every medal that is won for the continent.
Some of the information one can find in this article includes;
- Africa makes it to list of new stars
- Kenya’s Rotich wins Bronze in 800m
- Uganda’s Nakaayi wins 800m Gold
- Ethiopia’s Edris wins back-to-back 5000m
- Kenya wins 3000m steeplechase Gold
- Medals table
- Burkina Faso’s historic medal
- How Kenya won the first medal in Doha
- How Qatar and athletes are coping with the heat
- African stars to watch
- Controversies affecting Team Africa
Medals Table – Africa
- Kenya, 5 Gold medals, 2 Silver medals, 4 Bronze medals (2nd overall)
- Ethiopia, 2 Gold, 5 Silver, 1 Bronze (6th)
- Uganda, 2 Gold (9th)
- Algeria, 1 Silver (26th)
- Burkina Faso, 1 Bronze medal (31st)
- Ivory Coast,1 Bronze medal (31st)
- Namibia, 1 Bronze medal (31st)
- Morocco, 1 Bronze medal (31st)
- Nigeria, 1 Bronze (31st)
Uganda’s Cheptegei wins 10,000m
Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei won the last event of the World Athletics Championships, taking gold in the 10,000m race with 26:48.36.
All-Africa podium in men’s marathon
It was an all-Africa affair in the men’s marathon as Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa and Mosinet Geremew joined Kenya’s Amos Kipruto on the podium.
Desisa took gold, clocking a season’s best of 2:10:40, with Geremew four seconds back. Bronze went to Kipruto.
Kenya’s Cheruiyot wins men’s 1500m
Kenya’s Timothy Cheruiyot led from start to finish, in the men’s 1500m, clocking 3:29.26.
Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi won silver, while Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski settled for bronze.
Kenya’s Kipruto wins 3000m steeplechase
Kenyan athlete Conseslus Kipruto successfully defended his title in 8:01.35, making history with the second fastest winning time in World Championships history.
Kipruto joins Moses Kiptanui, Saif Saaeed Shaheen and Ezekiel Kemboi as multiple steeplechase gold medallists at the World Championships.
Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma, took the silver medal in 8:01.36, just 0.01, while Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco held on for bronze in 8:03.76.
“The Ethiopians had a plan before we started the race,” said Kipruto. “I had a plan for us Kenyans to push hard and I wanted to go in front to control the pace but it was not possible. Those guys, Girma and Wale, simply destroyed my tactics.
“But at championships, I always believe that that experience counts for a lot; it’s not about shape. I set my mind and my heart very well. When I got to the start line, I told myself, ‘I’m going to do it’. This strong mentality helped me win the race.”
New stars emerge
Several African athletes and nations have emerged as some of the new stars that this year’s World Championships have produced.
Burkina Faso won its first-ever bronze medal, as Hugues Fabrice Zango, won Bronze in the Men’s Triple Jump.
The Gambia also made Championship history, placing 6th in the Women’s 200m.
Uganda’s Halimah Nakaayi, upset the form book to win Gold in the Women’s 800m.
“They will be very happy back home in Uganda. They are dancing now. It is a historic day,’‘ Nakaayi said as she celebrated with her compatriot, Winnie Nanyondo, the fourth-place finisher.
Ethiopia’s 5000m silver medallist Selemon Barega became one of the first athletes born this century to win a senior global medal.
Kenya’s Rotich wins Bronze in 800m
Kenya’s Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich secured the bronze medal in Tuesday’s 800m final, adding to the East African nation’s medal tally.
Rotich clocked 1:43.47, behind America’s Donovan Brazier who won gold with 1:42.34, and Amel Tuka of Bosnia at 1:43.82.
Uganda’s Nakaayi wins 800m
Uganda’s Halimah Nakaayi pulled off one of this year’s biggest upsets when she won the women’s 800m category, beating pre-race favorite Ajee Wilson who only managed bronze.
Uganda was perfectly poised to make history, as it had two finalists in the race, the first time the country was featured in the World Championships finals.
“I was feeling so good, I knew something special was going to happen tonight,” said Nakaayi, whose only previous big meet medal came at the All Africa Games in August, where she took bronze.
“So I just kept pushing and pushing. I was feeling strong and in the end, I got it.”
Nakaayi celebrated with her compatriot, Winnie Nanyondo, who finished fourth in 1:59.18.
Nakaayi returns to action on Wednesday in the heats of the 1500m.
Ethiopia’s Muktar wins back-to-back 5000m
Ethiopia’s Muktar Edris who ended Mo Farah’s streak of world titles in 2017, successfully defended his crown in Doha on Monday.
Edris finished the race at 12:58.85, just the third time in World Championships history that the 5000m title was won with a sub-13-minute time.
“I’ve struggled so much over the past few years and have overcome many injuries, so I am grateful to win today,” said Edris.
“I injured my ankle one year ago, then I got some abdominal problems and I didn’t do well in my races. But I didn’t feel pain before coming here, so I told myself that I could fight for the victory.’‘
Edris also joins Farah and Ismael Kirui as a multiple winner of the world 5000m title.
“It was great to see all the people cheering for us,” he added. “With fans like that, you win.”
His compatriot Selemon Barega took silver in 12:59.70 while Canada’s Mohammed Ahmed earned bronze in 13:01.11, earning his country a first-ever 5000m medal at the World Championships.
Kenya’s Chepkoech wins 3000m steeplechase
Kenya’s Beatrice Chepkoech won the 3000m steeplechase with a record time of 8:57.84.
Burkina Faso wins first medal
Burkinabe athlete Hugues Fabrice Zango, won Bronze in the Men’s Triple Jump, earning the country’s first-ever medal at the World Athletics Championships.
The reigning African champion also improved the continent’s record to 17.66m.
‘‘I’m really happy to have been able to jump this distance and set a new African record,’‘ Zango said after his feat.
Hugues was beaten to the gold medal by the United States’ Christain Taylor, who had a jump of 17.92m, while the silver medal was also clinched by an American, Will Cayle, at 17.74m.
100m or 200m? The Nigeria mix-up
Nigerian athletes Divine Oduduru and Blessing Okagbare were relieved when the IAAF approved them to participate in the men’s and women’s 200 metres races respectively, following a bureaucratic mix-up.
The pair were both entered in the 100 metres even though they had said they did not intend to take part. Under IAAF rules, they were then barred from the rest of the competition for failing to turn up for the races.
However, on Sunday the IAAF jury said it accepted their appeal and agreed to reinstate them.
“Oduduru and Okabare will be added to the start lists of round one of the 200 men and women respectively” it said in a statement.
The Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), which had tweeted on Friday that the pair would only race 200 metres, has been criticised over the failure to withdraw them from the 100 metres.
The country’s Minister for Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, was among the critics of the situation.
“Doha – all day I have followed the developments around two of our Athletes, Divine and Blessing,” he said on Twitter.
“Our officials are at the IAAF Technical Information Center as we speak. Nigerians deserve an explanation.”
Guinea-Bissau athlete hailed
Guinea-Bissau’s Braima Dabo is being hailed world over for helping exhausted Aruban Johnathan Busby across the 5,000 metres finish line in an astonishing display of sportsmanship.
It was an agonising and heartwarming end to Friday’s opening heat of the men’s 5,000m as a distressed Busby, near collapse, was rescued on the final lap by Dabo and helped home, with the two men crossing the line to a rousing ovation at Khalifa Stadium.
“The main objective was to represent my country as well as possible and I’m happy I could help the other guy,” Portuguese-speaking Dabo told Reuters.
“I saw he was not running in the right way, he was leaning, I realised he wasn’t going to finish.
“I knew I wasn’t going to beat my personal record, so when I realised that, it was better to go for the main aim, which was to finish the race. My thoughts were to help him finish, that is the point of the race.”
The heat was won by Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega in a time of 13 minutes 24.69 seconds but it was the heroic effort unfolding behind the winner that brought the crowd to its feet.
Asked about the crowd’s reaction to his gesture of sportsmanship a humble Dabo, 26, said nothing had changed.
“I continue being the same as before — I’m proud to be here representing my country.”
Kenya wins first Gold medal
Kenya won the first Gold medal of the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, when Ruth Chepngetich won the women’s marathon Friday, clocking 2:32:43.
Chepngetich overcame extreme heat and humidity to win, in a gruelling test of survival that saw nearly a third of the 70 starters fail to reach the finish line.
Chepngetich, who has clocked the third-fastest marathon of all-time, did not come close to matching that in the punishing conditions. Her winning time of two hours, 32 minutes, 43 seconds was the slowest ever to win the world championships.
Still, it was enough for a comfortable victory over Bahrain’s defending world champion Rose Chelimo, who settled for silver crossing more than a minute adrift.
Namibia’s Helalia Johannes completed the podium taking the bronze.
“I am very happy with the win and bringing back the gold to Kenya,” said Chepngetich. “It was a tough race but I knew what to expect as I ran in Dubai.
“I trained for this weather running in the afternoon when the sun was high.
“I want to win another for Kenya in Tokyo.”
Too hot for competition?
The opening day of the 10-day event began with the governing International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) issuing a statement that the marathon would go ahead despite concerns over extreme heat and athlete welfare.
As temperatures hovered in the mid-30s Celsius the runners waited their turn in the spotlight as the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach sitting on one side and IAAF boss Sebastian Coe on the other, declared the championships open to an explosion of fireworks.
The midnight start tempered the sting of a searing sun but with the temperature sitting at 32.7C and the humidity index at 73% the conditions were right on the limit of what the IAAF said were allowable.
Despite IAAF assurances that athlete welfare was the top priority, some felt the conditions were so severe that the race should not have been run.
“The humidity kills you,” said Volha Mazuronak of Belarus. “There is nothing to breathe. I thought I wouldn’t finish.
“It’s disrespect towards the athletes.
“A bunch of high-ranked officials gathered and decided that it would take (the championships) here but they are sitting in the cool and they are probably sleeping right now.”
World Championships start
Athletics powerhouse Kenya will be in the spotlight, as the 17th edition of the World Athletics Championships gets underway on Friday in Qatar, following recent doping allegations.
A total of 1,972 athletes from 208 countries and territories will compete in the championships, which are seen as an important staging post as Qatar prepares for the challenge of hosting football’s World Cup in 2022.
Tonight’s midnight marathon launches a 10-day battle for medals as the biennial event is staged in the Middle East for the first time.
Managing the heat in Qatar
With the bulk of the competition taking place at the fully air-conditioned Khalifa Stadium, most athletes will be shielded from the ferocious heat and humidity in Doha, where temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
Marathon runners and endurance athletes, however, will be required to battle through the challenging climate alone, raising safety concerns.
The marathon and race-walking events have been scheduled for late at night to avoid the hottest part of the day, with Friday’s women’s marathon, where the first medals of the championships will be decided — starting under floodlights at 11:59pm (2059 GMT).
International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Sebastian Coe said he is confident marathon runners will be able to cope with temperatures forecast at around 32 degrees Celsius and humidity of 80 percent.
Organisers, however, are leaving nothing to chance, with larger than usual teams of paramedics on hand and an abundance of water stations populating the course on Doha’s Corniche waterfront.
“The overwhelming thrust of this is the welfare of the athletes,” Coe said on Thursday.
“We will have more water on the course than we’ve ever had in any marathon, we will have more medical support and more paramedics out there as well.”
While the women’s marathon brings the curtain down on the first day of action, the newly renovated Khalifa Stadium will play host to the opening track and field events.
The highlights of the first day will include the opening heats of the men’s 100 metres, where US sprinter Christian Coleman will aim to shrug off the missed drug-test controversy which threatened to derail his career.
Coleman, the fastest man in the world over 100m this season, faced being barred from the championships last month after it emerged he had registered three anti-doping “whereabouts failures” in a 12-month period.
However, the charges against the 23-year-old American were withdrawn earlier this month because of a technical loophole.
Coleman is amongst a crop of young American sprinters hoping to fill the void created by the retirement of Jamaican sprint icon Usain Bolt, who hung up his spikes after the 2017 worlds in London.
The likeliest candidate to replace Bolt, however, could turn out to be Noah Lyles, the charismatic 22-year-old who is the favourite in the 200m, with the final taking place next Tuesday.
In the women’s sprints, meanwhile, Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is chasing a record fourth 100m gold at the age of 32, two years after skipping a season for the birth of her son in 2017.
Fraser-Pryce opens her 100m campaign in Saturday’s heats with the final on Sunday.
Elsewhere during the championships, world records could come under threat in the men’s and women’s 400m hurdles.
Norway’s Karsten Warholm is set for a battle royale in the men’s event with American champion Rai Benjamin.
In the women’s race, Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad is hoping to improve her new world record of 52.20sec set at the US trials in July.
There is no place in Doha though for South Africa’s 800m star Caster Semenya.
The double Olympic champion misses out after losing a long-running battle against regulations requiring her to take medication to lower her naturally-elevated testosterone levels.
Kenyan athletes Jackline Wambui, who won the 800 metres at the country’s trials, and Linda Kageha, who was in the mixed relay team, also withdrew from the world championships after failing to take mandatory testosterone level tests.
“The IAAF has set tough conditions on gender and doping and we must comply. If an athlete fails to take the tests, they are definitely out of the (world) championships,” Athletics Kenya Vice President in charge of competitions Paul Mutwii told Reuters.
‘‘Wambui and Kageha declined the test on testosterone levels. They had no choice but to withdraw.’‘
Kenya’s doping woos
Meanwhile, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Sebastian Coe says the body’s Integrity Unit is investigating allegations of doping against Kenyan athletes.
This follows a report by German broadcaster ZDF, which allegedly showed two Kenyan athletes, one male and one female, being injected with banned performance-enhancing substance Erythropoietin.
The documentary, shown less than a week before the start of the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, also featured a doctor who said he had treated eight runners.
ZDF also claims to have evidence of possible corruption and collusion between Athletics Kenya and the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK).
Up to 41 Kenyan athletes are currently under sanctions, and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has investigated the country, before publishing a report outlining several concerns over the structures in place.
Stars to watch
World athletics chief Coe, elected to a second term as IAAF president this week, hopes Doha will help draw a line under a turbulent first term dominated by the Russian doping scandal that erupted in late 2015.
“I can’t actually remember a time in the sport when I’ve been so optimistic and excited about young talent coming through,” Coe said on Thursday. “The sport is in great shape.”
In tonight’s women’s marathon, Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat will be hoping to wrestle the crown from defending champion, Rose Chelimo who competes for Bahrain.
In the men’s 5000m, Mo Farah’s crown is up for grabs, since he retired from the event. Ethiopia’s Telahun Haile Bekele, who is barely 20, is the fastest in the world this year. Another Ethiopian Selemon Barega, who ran 12:43.02 last year, and is 19, is also a contender for the crown.