Addis Ababa, EthiopiaAmantle Montsho, 24, from Botswana, recorded the outstanding performance on the third day of the 16th African Athletics Championships here tonight, clocking the first sub 50sec run in the history of the championships. Supplanting Sanya Richards as the fastest woman in the world this year, Montsho consolidated her status as the first Botswana woman to reach world elite level.
Montsho – ‘Now I believe anything is possible’
Montsho took full advantage of the altitude setting of the Addis Ababa Stadium, and the wild support of a 25,000 capacity crowd, to record 49.83. Winning by more than a clear second from runner-up Agugan Folashade (50.89) from Nigeria, she obliterated the championship record of 50.07 set 10 years ago by Nigeria’s Falilat Ogunkoya. Furthermore, it was only the third gold medal for Botswana in the 29-year history of the championships.
Runner-up to 2001 world champion Amy Mbacke Thiam, of Senegal, in the last African Championships, in 2006, Montsho scored her first significant international success when taking the All Africa Games title, in Algiers, last year. Recording 51.13, she went on to break the national record for the fourth time in 2007 (50.90) as she narrowly failed to reach the final of the World Championships in Osaka.
Botswana, famous for its diamond industry, has found a sporting jewel here. Four years ago merely taking part in the Athens Olympics was a dream come true for the young athlete who did not have the standard but who was entered with the wild card for countries without qualified athletes. Montsho thus became the first woman from Botswana to compete in the Olympics. Now she has the potential to reach the final in Beijing. “I was not surprised to break the record,” she said. “But I didn’t plan it, it just came. Now I believe anything is possible.”
Just 15 minutes later Botswana almost won a second gold medal at 400m but Isaac Makwala had to settle for silver in the closest of finishes. Ali Babiker Nagmeldin delivered Sudan’s first gold of this year’s championships but only after recording the same time (45.64) as Makwala.
Rudisha cruises to first Kenyan gold...
Ten other countries had won gold medals prior to Kenya getting off the mark and it was left to David Rudisha to open the account with his victory over 800m. Rudisha, the world junior champion, recorded 1:44.20 to beat by almost a second the championship record which had survived for 24 years. It had been set at 1:45.17 by Rudisha’s compatriot, Sammy Kosgei.
Rudisha’s run also strengthened his hold on the world’s fastest time of the year, having recorded 1:44.38 in Nairobi last month, although he was just outside the personal best of 1:44.15 he ran to win the Golden League 800m in Brussels last season. The absence of Abubaker Kaki, the Sudanese who won the Pan Arab Games title last year in 1:43.90 and who has since been crowned World Indoor champion, ensured a relatively easy path to victory for Rudisha.
... followed by a Kenyan steeplechase sweep
After suffering humiliation over the first two days, as Ethiopia took five medals to their one in the men’s 10,000m and women’s 5000m, Kenya hit back with a vengeance. No sooner had Rudisha won, supported by compatriot Asbel Kiprop’s 800m bronze, than they celebrated a sweep of the medals in the men’s 3000m Steeplechase. Richard Mateelong, bronze medallist at the World Championships in Osaka, took the gold in the absence of the countrymen who beat him that day, Brimin Kipruto and Ezekiel Kemboi. Mateelong passed Michael Kipyego on the final barrier to win in 8:31.68. Willy Komen added the bronze.
Burka leads Ethiopian 1-2 in women’s 1500m...
However, Ethiopia has come to expect at these championships and, with their last throw of the dice on day three, Gelete Burka rolled a six, winning the women’s 1500m in a championship record 4:08.25. Compatriot Meskerem Assefa followed up with silver.
... but South Africa leads the gold rush
While the track events have dominated interest among spectators, and the Ethiopia-Kenya rivalry in particular, South Africa have been going about their business with quiet efficiency. Five more golds took their table-topping tally to six. L.J. van Zyl retained his 400m Hurdles title (48.91), Elizna Naude won the women’s Discus (55.34m), Janice Josephs took the women’s Long Jump (6.64m), Anika Smit the women’s High Jump (1.88) and, courtesy of a failed last changeover by Nigeria, the South African men’s squad won the 4x100m.
David Powell for the IAAF