A dramatic last attempt saw Ghana's Ignisious Gaisah win the Long Jump at the Africa Championships at the Germain Commarmond Stadium in Bambous, Mauritius on Wednesday.
Gaisah took the lead with an opening jump of 8.24m and extended the lead at the fourth attempt with an 8.34m effort. However with South Africa's Khotso Mokoena improving with each attempt, Gaisah skipped his fifth jump.
It all came down to the wire with Mokoena briefly taking the lead with an 8.45m effort. Gaisah responded with massive albeit wind-aided (+3.7) effort to win the contest with a leap of 8.51m. Algeria Issam Nima was third with 8.37m.
"I know Mokoena improves as the contest progresses so I skipped the fifth jump to ensure a maximum effort in my final effort," says Gaisah.
The World Indoor and Commonwealth Games champion went on "If it was not for the strong wind behind me I would have set the Africa record today. I want to assure Africa that I will give my all at the World Cup," says Gaisah. Not all is lost for Mokoena as he will be in action in the Triple Jump.
Arafat qualifies for Athens
Earlier on Egypt's Marwa Ahmed Arafat was the first African to qualify for the World Cup in Athletics when she won the women's Hammer Throw. She retained her Africa title with a throw of 62.16m. Morocco's Hayat Elghazi (59.33) retained her silver medal while Nigeria Blessing Ergwu (51.77) clinched the bronze medal.
"It was a great relief to retain my title as this is only my second competition this year. I look forward to a better performance when I represent Africa at the World Cup in Athens," says Arafat.
Another title for Egypt
Elsewhere Ibrahim Yasser Fathy ensured Egypt topped the medal table on the opening day of the five day contest when he won the men’s Shot Put with a heave of 18.93m. He prevailed over South Africa's Janus Robberts (17.88) and Tunisian Mohammed Medded (17.87).
"I expected a stiff competition and would have been satisfied with a bronze medal. Winning the gold medal is a dream come true," says a delighted Fathy.
Bekele sprints to 5000m title
Ethiopia and Kenya renewed their perennial and intense rivalry in the men's 5000m. The race was slow but tactical as Kenyans Mike Kigen, Kiprono Menjo and Kipketer Cheruiyot took turns leading the pace, with Uganda's Moses Kipsiro occasionally surging to the lead.
The slow pace suited Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele who made his move in the last 800m. He took the lead at the bell and went onto win the race in 14: 03.41. Kigen (14:05.12) fought hard to hold off Kipsiro (14:05.20) for the silver medal.
"Our effort to run fast time was ruled out by the strong head wind on the back straight. It was all a tactical affair. I knew that the race would be decided in the last two laps. I hope to run much faster in Athens," says Bekele.
With two victories Egypt topped the medal table at the end of the day. Ghana and Ethiopia are tied in second place. What is encouraging is the wide distribution of medals with ten countries sharing the spoils after only four finals.
Mark Ouma for the IAAF
Link to full results
NR denotes National Record
PB denotes Personal Best
1 Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia) 14:03.41
2 Mike Kigen (Kenya) 14:05.12
3 Moses Kipsiro (Uganda) 14:05.20
1 Ignisious Gaisah (Ghana) 8.51 (+3.7)
2 Khotso Mokoena (South Africa) 8.45 (+4.2)
3 Issam Nima (Algeria) 8.37
4 Gable Garenamotse (Botswana) 8.02 (3.1)
1 Ibrahim Yassar (Egypt) 18.93
2 Janus Robberts (South Africa) 17.88
3 Mohammed Medded (Tunisia) 17.87
1 Marwa Hussein Arafat (Egypt) 62.16
2 Hayat Elghazi (Morocco) 59.33
3 Blessing Egwu (Nigeria) 51.77
Gold Silver Bronze
Egypt 2 0 0
Ethiopia 1 0 0
Ghana 1 0 0
South Africa 0 2 0
Kenya 0 1 0
Morocco 0 1 0
Algeria 0 0 1
Nigeria 0 0 1
Tunisia 0 0 1
Uganda 0 0 1