Leungo Scotch (l) en route to the African Games 400m title in Rabat (AFP/Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Rabat, Morocco

Botswana and Kenya dominate the 400m and 20km race walk at African Games

Botswana’s Isaac Makwala may have lost his bid to retain the men’s 400m title he won four years ago, but compatriot Leungo Scotch ensured the gold medal remained in the Southern African nation when he stormed to the win in a personal best of 45.27 at the 12th African Games in Rabat on Wednesday (28), as Thapelo Phora of South Africa (45.59) and Nigeria’s Chidi Okezie (45.61) settled for silver and bronze respectively.

Ten minutes earlier, fellow Botswana athlete Galefele Moroko had just claimed gold in the women’s 400m, extending her winning streak in the course of the competition to beat Nigeria’s Favour Ofili to the title. Moroko put up an impressive display to run her second personal best in as many days, replacing her previous time of 51.53 set on Tuesday at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium, with a new mark of 51.30.

She inspired both Ofili (51.68) and Ghana’s Grace Obour (51.86) to new personal bests as well, with the former now qualifying for the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019.

Day 3 events for track and field kicked off with the women’s and men’s 20km walk, and Emily Wamsuyi Ngii inspired a 1-2 for Kenya in the women’s event which she won in 1:34.41, while teammate Grace Wanjiru Ngue followed in 1:34.57, leaving the Bronze medal for Ethiopia’s Yehualeye Beletew Mitiku.

Samuel Kireri Gathimba ensured that the Kenyan dominance also played out in the men’s race where he claimed the title in 1:22.48, with Ethiopia’s Yohanis Algaw Wale and Wayne Snyman of South African settling for 2nd and 3rd respectively.

Amusan and Nwanaga successfully defend

Nigeria's pair of Tobi Amusan and Kelechi Nwanaga retained their respective crowns in the women’s 100m hurdles and javelin throw.

Not only did Amusan retain the gold medal she won in 2015, she stormed to victory in a new championship record of 12.68 to erase Glory Alozie's former African Games record of 12.74 set in Johannesburg 20 years ago. Burkina Faso’s Christiane Marthe Yasmine Koala took the silver in 13.20, and Taylon Bieldt the bronze with a time of 13.40.

It was back-to-back African Games victories for Kelechi Nwanaga who almost lost her title to South Africa’s Jo-ane Van Dyk, the 2016 World U20 silver medallist. The reigning African champion beat Van Dyk to gold in Asaba last year, and led the standings with a third round attempt of 54.82m. However, the South African overtook her in her sixth attempt after her spear landed at 55.38m. Nwanaga snatched the gold with her final attempt of 55.88m.

2011 World Championships silver medallist Sunette Viljoen took third place with her best effort of 53.44m.

Mekides Abebe upgraded from continental junior champion to senior gold medallist in the women’s 3000m steeplechase. It was a scanty field comprising only six athletes, with three of them Ethiopians, while Mercy Wanjiru happened to be the only Kenyan in the mix.

The Ethiopians had planned a clean sweep of medals with Abebe leading the pack, eventually dominating the event with a time of 9:35.18. Weynshet Ansa Weldetsadik was poised for second place but Wanjiru overtook her in the final lap, winning silver in 9:37.53.

Tunisia’s Abdessalem Ayouni emerged the surprise winner of the men’s 800m, stunning Kenya’s Cornelious Kipkoech, who already thought he had the win in the bag. But Ayouni waited for the perfect opportunity to strike, and with less than 10 metres to go, he sailed past the rest of the field to take the victory with a lifetime best of 1:45.17. Kipkoech was second in 1:45.41, and Morocco’s Nabil Oussama third in 1:45.42.

4x100m titles for Ghana and Nigeria

The men and women’s 4x100m relays drew the curtain on day 3 action. With many of the teams still seeking qualification for the World Championships, Ghana’s quartet of Paul Joseph Amoah, Benjamin Kwaku, Martin Owusu-Antwi and Sean Safo-Antwi brought the baton home in 38.30 to take gold ahead of Nigeria (38.59) and South Africa (38.80) in the men’s relay.

In the women’s race, Nigeria retained their title from four years ago as they struck gold with a time of 44.16, with South Africa (44.61) and Kenya (45.44) taking silver and bronze respectively.

Yemi Olus for the IAAF