Ethiopia’s Jemal Yimer won the first gold medal of the 21st African Athletics Championship which began behind schedule Wednesday amidst organisational chaos at the Stephen Keshi stadium in Asaba.
Yimer, 21, who first showed glimpses of a star in the making last year at the IAAF World Championship in London where he ran 26:56.11 seconds to place fifth obliterated the men’s 10,000m field in Asaba, winning the gold in 29:08.01 seconds.
Also on Wednesday, Ivory Coast’s Marie-Jose Ta Lou strolled into today’s 100m semi-final in 11.25 seconds.
The reigning world leader in the event at 10.85 seconds is expected to make the final later this evening and succeed compatriot and defending champion, Muriel Ahoure, who ran a new 10.99 seconds new championships record two years ago in Durban.
Ta Lou’s pre-championship main challenger, Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor pulled out a few hours before the start of the championship Wednesday afternoon.
South Africa’s Akani Simbine also strolled into today’s semi-finals, winning his heat in 10.30 seconds.
Other top guns who made the semis in the event include defending champion, Ben Youssef Meite, compatriot and the second fastest African over the distance so far this year, Arthur Cisse, 2012 champion Simon Magakwe of South Africa and the Nigerian trio of Oghoghene Egwero, Enoch Adegoke and Seye Ogunlewe.
Meanwhile, sprint hurdler, Tobiloba Amusan, Hammer thrower Oqueen Obisesan and Shot Putter, Enekwechi Chukwuebuka, may strike the first set of gold medals for Nigeria today.
Amusan will compete in the semi-final of the 100m hurdles this morning and she is expected to make it to the final slated for this afternoon (2pm).It will be her first African championship title if she fulfils expectations and 11th sprint hurdles gold for Nigeria in the event since Judy Bell-Gam won gold at the inaugural edition of the championship in 1979 in Senegal.
Also expected to have it easy at the shot put circle is USA-based Enekwechi who tops the African list so far this year.
The 2018 Commonwealth Games silver medallist is the only athlete in the competition who has thrown 21m and above this season and a repeat of his 21.22m African lead will not only give him his first African title but also the championship record. South Africa’s Janus Roberts holds the 21.02m he set in 2004 in Congo.
Like Enekwechi, Obisesan will also be confident of landing her first major title for Nigeria in the women’s Hammer Throw.
Obisesan tops the African list with her 66.86m effort in Abuja last February. No other African woman has hit the 66m mark so far this year.
A win for the wife of one of Nigeria’s best field event coaches, Lateef Obisesan will land her in history books as the first Nigerian to win gold in the event.
Also today, the semi-finals of the men and women’s 4x100m relays will hold with Nigeria expected to scale through to Friday’s final.