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Ivorian Ben Youssef Meite’s shock victory in the men’s 100m, Nigerian Blessing Okagbare’s expected victory in the women’s 100m, and Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot’s 5000m triumph over Ethiopian archrival Meseret Defar were the highlights of the action on day two of the 17th CAA Safaricom African Athletics Championships in Nairobi, Kenya.
In the day’s other events, South Africa’s Godfrey Khotso Mokoena easily won his first African title in the men’s long jump, Seun Adigun made it a successful day for Nigeria with gold in the women’s 100m hurdles, and Algerian Larbi Bourrada took the men’s decathlon.
Meite shocks strong field to win first African sprint title for Ivory Coast
The result of the day came in the men’s 100m where Meite registered the shock of the championships so far by winning the men’s 100m. The Ivorian created a bit of history by becoming his country’s first individual gold medalist in the biennial championships since Serge Doh won the men’s discus in 1996.
The 23-year old was only sixth fastest in the African lists before the start of the championships with four of the five leaders competing in the final on Thursday, but after going off the blocks third quickest, he easily made ground on the competition and took victory in a personal best time of 10.08, the fastest time in these championships since Segun Ogunkoya’s 9.94 performance in Dakar, Senegal 12 years ago and a national record.
Ghana’s former champion and pre-race favorite Aziz Zakari (10.12) and South Africa’s Simon Magakwe (10.14) followed Meite across the finish line for silver and bronze respectively.
“This is a personal best, a national record, and the first medal for Ivory Coast in a long time and I am really happy,” said a delighted Meite. “It was a hard race and I was confident after the heats of victory and knew that I would win.”
One down, two to go - Okagbare claims 100m championship record
While the men’s 100m was a shock, there was little surprise in the women’s corresponding race as Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare confirmed her pre-race tag with her first ever African title.
The 21-year old, who is still a student in the University of Texas at El Paso in the US, recovered from a bad start to clock 11.03 and break compatriot Mary Onyali’s championship record by two hundredths of a second.
Gabon’s Perennes Pau Zang Milama, fourth in the world indoor championships 60m, prevented a clean sweep of the medals for Nigeria by finishing second in 11.15, a personal best and a national record, with defending champion Damole Osayemi third in 11.22.
“It was a huge relief winning,” said Okagbare. “I thought my start was very bad. But after 30 or 40m, I was doing my race. I was worried that I might be disqualified and that’s why I started very badly. I am happy with the victory and for the championship record.”
Impressive Cheruiyot beats Defar again
For the crowd at the Nyayo stadium, there was only going to be one final on the day with home favorite and world champion Vivian Cheruiyot taking on four-time World indoor 3000m champion Meseret Defar in the women’s 5000m.
The 26-year old Kenyan had an inferior head-to-head record (14 victories for Defar over the 5000m to Cheruiyot’s three) going into the race, but had significantly won their last two outdoor encounters and was again favored to triumph over the Ethiopian on home soil.
Both Cheruiyot and Defar chose conservative tactics for the 12-and-half laps by electing not to push the pace from the front for large parts of the contest. It was Defar’s compatriot Sentayehu Ejigu, this season’s Samsung Diamond League 3000m/5000m leader, who tried to make the first real move of the race with eight laps left, but that only succeeded in whittling the starting field of 13 to just seven runners with all three Kenyans - Cheruiyot, Ines Chenonge, and Esther Chemtai - the three Ethiopians - Defar, Ejigu, and Sule Utura - and Tanzanian Zakia Mrisho still in contention.
Chemtai, with four laps to go, and then Cheruiyot, a lap later, also tried leading from the front, but the seven in the leading pack arrived together at the bell on walking pace.
Cheruiyot made the first serious kick of the race with 300 metres remaining and continued to pull away from Defar until she reached the finish line in a 16:18.72 ahead of Defar (16:20.54) with Ejigu holding off Chenonge to claim bronze in 16:22.32.
“This is a championship and that is why the time is very slow,” said a delighted Cheruiyot. “The victory is very special for me as I am competing in my country and today, I did not want to lose in front of my people.”
8.23m enough for Mokoena in Long Jump
South Africa’s Olympic and World silver medallist Godfrey Khotso Mokoena took the men’s Long Jump with a modest leap of 8.23m. Although he has been struggling this season with injuries, the 25-year old needed just one attempt beyond eight metres to take victory ahead of Senegal’s Ndiss Kaba Badji (8.10m) with Nigeria’s Stanley Gbagbeke (8.06m) taking bronze. Ghana’s 2006 African champion Ignasious Gaisah did not start the final after a recurrence of a foot injury.
Adigun, Bourrada, Dinar, El Ghazaly all win easily
In the day’s other four finals, Nigeria’s Seun Adigun won her country’s second gold of the day with victory in the women’s 100m Hurdles in 13.14s. Algerian Larbi Bourrada was an impressive winner of the men’s Decathlon with 8148 pts ahead of compatriot Mourad Souissi, who improved his personal best to 7818 points, and Mauritius’ Guillaume Thierry (7100 pts). Moroccan Nisrin Dinar comfortably won the women’s Pole Vault with 3.70m, 20 centimeters clear of second placed Laetitia Berthier of Burundi and a further 10cm ahead of Ivorian Sinali Alima Outtara. And Egyptian Abdellatif El Ghazaly defended his men’s discus title with a throw of 59.30m ahead of compatriot Yasser Ibrahim Farag (58.71m) and South Africa’s Victor Hogan (58.11m).
Track semis- Rudisha, Kirwa, Kikaya, Montsho, Thiam, Burka, Langat, Van Zyl all through but Mulaudzi pulls out
In the day’s track semifinals, all the pre-race favorites easily made it through to their finals on Friday and Saturday.
African record holder and the face of the championships David Rudisha made easy work in the men’s 800m final with the fastest time in qualifying (1:46.58) ahead of compatriots Alfred Kirwa and Jackson Kivuna. But South Africa’s World 800m champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi is out after failing to start the semifinals with a hamstring injury.
Libya’s Mohammed Khawaja looked impressive in qualifying for the men’s 400m final by winning his heat in 45.42, the fastest of the three heats. Democratic Republic of Congo’s 2006 champion and African record holder Gary Kikaya also made it through after winning his heat in 45.55.
As expected, Botwswana’s defending champion Amantle Montsho dominated the women’s 400m semifinals by clocking the fastest time of the two heats in 50.39. Also through is 2001 World champion Amy Mbacke Thiam of Senegal.
There were also no surprises in the women’s 1500m semis as pre-race favorites, Kenya’s Olympic champion Nancy Langat and defending African champion Gelete Burka ,both easily made it through. The fastest runner in qualifying though was Kenyan Irene Jelagat who won the first heat in 4:13.97.
And South Africa’s defending men’s 400m Hurdles winner Louis J Van Zyl is also safely through to the final after winning his heat in 49.73, but was second in qualifying to Senegal’s Mamadou Kasse Hanne, who won his heat in 49.45.