The African Championships in Marrakech kicked off on Sunday (10) with the men’s 10,000m, one of the most hotly contested events on the programme. After little more than 28 minutes of running, Eritrea’s Nguse Amlosom emerged as the victor.
In doing so, he made a little bit of history by becoming the first Eritrean athlete ever to win gold – or indeed a medal of any colour – at the African Championships.
Held in the same stadium that will host the IAAF Continental Cup later this year, the men’s 10,000m was the first track final of the five-day championships. And it did not disappoint.
Heading into the final lap, Amlosom, who finished eighth in the 25-lap event at the 2013 World Championships and 15th at the 2012 Olympics, was one of four athletes still in contention and was perhaps the least favoured.
Moroccan champion Mustapha El Aziz had the benefit of the home crowd behind him, while 2008 world junior champion Josphat Bett was fresh from winning a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games. Ethiopian champion Adugna Tekele was something of an unknown quantity, competing in just his second ever track race.
By this point of the race, recently crowned world junior champion Joshua Cheptegei had failed to finish, while his Ugandan team-mate and two-time Commonwealth champion Moses Kipsiro was a non-starter.
Nevertheless, it made the race no less exciting as the quartet kicked hard for the finish line. Tekele was the first to fade out of medal contention. El Aziz pushed Amlosom all the way, but the Eritrean held on to win in 28:11.07, finishing 0.29 ahead of the Moroccan. Bett finished third in 28:11.61.
Third time lucky for Cremona, third time unlucky for Sene
The only two other finals of the first day were the men’s shot and women’s hammer.
After taking bronze in 2010 and silver in 2012, South Africa’s Orazio Cremona continued his gradual climb up to the top of the podium to take gold in the shot.
The 25-year-old opened with a safe 17.35m but then shot into the lead with his second-round effort of 19.82m. The world indoor finalist improved on that in the fourth round with 19.84m, one of four throws in his series that landed beyond the 19-metre line. Team-mate Jaco Engelbrecht took silver with 18.87m.
While Cremona was something of an expected winner, the pre-championships favourite crumbled in the women’s hammer.
Senegal’s Amy Sene had twice broken the African record this season and led this year’s African lists by almost four metres. She had won the past two African titles and was bidding to make it a third.
But it was not to be as Burkina Faso’s Laetitia Bambara sent her hammer flying out to 65.44m with Sene unable to respond.
Sene ultimately had to make do with a best throw of 64.66m, more than five metres shy of her 69.70m African record set in May this year.
It was the first time for more than two years that Sene had been defeated by Bambara, but their career head-to-head record is now tied at 13 apiece.
Nigerian and Ivorian sprinters lead the way in 100m rounds
On a day that was packed with qualifying rounds, the men’s and women’s 100m captured much of the attention.
After a straight-forward round of heats in the morning, Nigeria’s Mark Jelks was fastest in the evening’s semi-finals, winning his race in 10.16 (1.6m/s).
But intrinsically, Hua Wilfried Koffa of the Ivory Coast produced the better performances as his 10.17 semi-final victory was into a -1.2m/s headwind. The third semi-final was won in 10.36 by defending champion Simon Magakwe of South Africa.
In the women’s event, double world silver medallist Murielle Ahoure was the fastest in the semi-final with her 11.19 (-0.3m/s) heat win. But Commonwealth champion Blessing Okagbare faced a stiffer headwind of -1.2m/s when winning the other semi-final in 11.20. Behind her, Ivory Coast’s Marie-Josee Ta Lou clocked 11.25.
Elsewhere, Larbi Bourrada looks set to win his third African title in the decathlon. The Algerian has a huge overnight lead, having posted the best marks of the day in the 100m (10.90), long jump (7.45m), high jump (2.04m) and 400m (48.33).
His day-one score of 4217 is just 100 points shy of the pace he set when setting the championship record of 8148 in 2010. Ghana's Atsu Nyamadi is currently second with 3871, which is 23 points better than his first-day score when he set the national record earlier this year.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF