World Athletics Half Marathon Championships: Africa wins the jackpot

The Africans flew over the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships which took place on Saturday, October 17, 2020 in Gdynia (Poland).

We were expecting Joshua Cheptegei but it was another Ugandan, Jacob Kiplimo, who took the victory in 58'49 '', a new national record. The 19-year-old defeated Kenyan Kandie Kibiwott (58:54) who is the holder of the best world performance of the year and Ethiopian Amedework Walelegn (59:08). For his first foray into the discipline, Cheptegei comes in fourth position in 59'21 ''. For the first time in the 28-year history of this event, a Ugandan athlete was sacred.

Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir improved her own world record in an all-female race in 1h 05'16 '' ahead of Kenyan-born German Melat Kejeta, (1h 05'18 '') and Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw (1h 05'19 ").

In an arena where endurance is king, speed has also proven to be a valuable commodity. Ultimately, Peres Jepchirchir needed both to reign supreme in the women's race.

 Peres Jepchirchir

Jepchirchir breaks women-only world record at World Athletics Half Marathon Championships Gdynia 2020

In an arena where endurance is king, speed also proved a precious commodity. In the end, Peres Jepchirchir needed both to reign supreme in the women’s race at the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships Gdynia 2020 on Saturday (17), powering to gold in 1:05:16, a world record* in a women-only race.

She led home Germany's Melat Yisak Kejeta, who smashed the European women-only record to take silver in 1:05:18, with Ethiopia’s Yalemzerf Yehualaw a close third in 1:05:19.

Joshua Cheptegei and Letesenbet Gidey in history

Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei (24 years old) and Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey (22 years old) made athletic history by seizing the world records in the men's 10,000m and the women's 5,000m respectively in Valencia ( Spain) on Wednesday October 7, 2020.

10,000m world champion Joshua Cheptegei is living an exceptional 2020. After seizing the world record in the 5,000m on August 14 in Monaco in 12'35''36, the Ugandan once again erased the Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele from the shelves by stealing the 10,000m from him, brought to the incredible time of 26'11''00. Bekele had managed 26'17''53 in 2005 in Brussels.

Cheptegei has confirmed his status as the best long-distance runner of the moment, he who simply aspires to be the best of all time.

“I met everyone's expectations, and I made my dream come true,” slipped the Ugandan shortly after his feat. We're here to write history, and show that athletics is always exciting. You had to give everything. The current situation is difficult for everyone, but these kinds of feats can bring joy to people. "

Previously, the Ethiopian Letensebet Gidey had distinguished herself in a very good way by passing from life to death the world record of the 5,000 m of her compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba, established in 2008 in 14'11''15, with a stopwatch staggering 14'06''62.

The Ethiopian vice-champion of the world in the 10,000m had announced in recent days that she was going to do it, and she did!

The performances of these two new legends prove that the future of athletics is in Africa.

"Kip Keino Classic": Kenyans shine at home

“Kip Keino Classic”, the final stage of the Continental Tour, was flown over by Kenyan world champions Hellen Obiri and Timothy Cheruiyot who won in their favorite discipline (5,000 and 1,500 m) in modest times. Thus Timothy Cheruiyot, dominated the 1500m in 3'34 "31 and the two-time world champion of the 5000m Helen Obiri did the same over 5000m in 15'6" 36.

It is an almost full Kenyan cardboard which we saw in the middle distance with the successes of Béatrice Cheptel (9'29 "05 over 3000 m steeplechase), Ferguson Rotich (1'44" 78 over 800 m), Abraham Kibiwott (8'17 "60 over 3000 m steeplechase) or Paul Tanui (28'6" 90 over 10,000 m). The victory of the Ethiopian Lemlem Hailu over 1,500m in 4'6 ”43 is one of the rare exceptions of the day.

Unlike middle distance, altitude has beneficial effects on sprint events. South African Sinesopho Dambile took the opportunity to win the 200m in 20''44 (+1.2 m / s) ahead of Ivorian Arthur Cissé (20''53).

Nairobi welcomes "Kip Keino Classic"

Nairobi is preparing to host the first World Athletics Continental Tour Meeting on African soil.

“This is an event that is really important, especially for Africa,” says Athletics Kenya President Jackson Tuwei. “It is going to open our sports in the country and most likely in Africa, because since Covid-19, there has not been any major championship in Africa.”

The  meet – named the Kip Keino Classic after distance legend Kipchoge Keino – was initially planned for May but was moved twice to its current date of 3 October.

Nairobi was to host the World Athletics U20 Championships this year but the event was rescheduled because of the corona virus pandemic.  Now, the Continental Tour is giving Athletics Kenya another chance to put on a great show this year.

“We want to organise it bearing in mind that the success of the Continental Tour in Nairobi will also resonate on how Africa can organise events,” says Tuwei.

“It will give us an opportunity to ensure that other events can spring up all over Africa, so that we are also able to have our own series that can help and build athletics on our continent.”

Nairobi was to host the World Athletics U20 Championships this year but the event was rescheduled because of the corona virus pandemic.  Now, the Continental Tour is giving Athletics Kenya another chance to put on a great show this year.

“We want to organise it bearing in mind that the success of the Continental Tour in Nairobi will also resonate on how Africa can organise events,” says Tuwei.

“It will give us an opportunity to ensure that other events can spring up all over Africa, so that we are also able to have our own series that can help and build athletics on our continent.”

There are five core events in the gold meeting series this season – the200m, 3000m steeplechase, triple jump, discus throw and hammer throw for both men and women. The Nairobi meet will also include javelin throw, the 400m, 800m, 1500m and 5000m.The organisers have also included some national events to give local athletes the chance to compete in a season ripped to shreds by the corona virus pandemic.

The meeting will take place at the Nyayo National Stadium, which is newly refurbished to meet the standards of World Athletics competitions.

There will be fewer athletes than initially expected but considering the circumstances, meet director Barnaba Korir is pleased with those who have shown interest in it so far.

After a mostly dormant year in athletics in AfricaTuwei is confident that everything is in place for a brilliant event in October.

“We feel that this is going to open this sport on the continent and we hope that things will work out in such a manner that the athletes get a chance to start competing again within the continent and outside.

“We are ready and we are prepared,” he says. “We want to assure all the athletes who will be coming to take part in the first continental tour in Africa that they will enjoy themselves and they will have a very good competition.”

Helen NGOH for CAA

Realism, flexibility, efficiency and consideration, fundamental aspects of the CAA development plan

The situation of athletics in these times of pandemic, the decisions of the last CAA Council, the African Athletics Development centers (AADC), the second development plan, the continental circuit of competitions, the African cross-country championships and the senior African championships were the highlights of the video-conference press conference on Monday, September 21, 2020, chaired by the CAA Director General, Lamine FATY and the technical Director, Aziz Daouda.

Coming back to the CAA council meeting on September 9, FATY said he was "satisfied" with this meeting after the meeting on May 16 with 15 members present and 05 absent with apologies. ‘’ The council has notably maintained the programming of our two major championships scheduled in 2020 for next year. The African cross country championship will take place at the end of February / mid-March 2021 in Lomé, Togo while the senior athletics championships will take place in Algiers in June 2021 '' added the CAA CEO, stressing that '' the precise dates will be decided later with the organizing federations''.
Mr. FATY reported on the continuation of the CAA African meetings circuit program with seven (07) stages even if those of Nigeria and South Africa are not yet confirmed. `` The CAA will ensure that this circuit takes place with its seven stages just like the meeting in Gaborone in Botswana in April 2021, '' he said, wishing for an improvement of the situation in relation to the covid-19 pandemic and a gradual resumption of regional and national championships.
`` Despite the confinement situation and inadequate preparation, we were pleasantly surprised by the performances of our athletes during the meetings in Monaco and Stockholm and we hope that they will do even better in the competitions to come ' 'said FATY.

For his part, the Technical Director of the CAA, Mr. Daouda indicated that “during this period of confinement, the confederation was very active by organizing about thirty sessions with more than 50 participants for each. He cited as example the seminar on women's athletics which brought together more than 65 women.

Mr. Daouda also returned to the CAA strategy based on development plans. '' In Abidjan during our congress, all the members declared themselves satisfied with our first ten-year plan which expired in 2017, '' he said, stressing that the CAA competitions experienced a clear progress in terms of enthusiasm and the number of participants. `` In the past we would organize championships with three or four countries, but we recorded at the last All Africa Games in Rabat the presence of 52 countries, while the numbers have also increased considerably '' noted the Technical Director who recognizes the difficulty of organizing cross-country championships because "it is a discipline that is not practiced in all African countries".

'' To encourage mass participation, CAA has introduced the U18 category for the African Cross Country Championships in Lomé where more than 300 participants of this age will be on the starting block '' he said by underlining the will of the confederation to popularize this discipline considered as "an entry to athletics".

Specifics of the field

Mr. Daouda will also say that the CAA strategy takes into account the specificities of our continent and does its best to make its vision heard for the benefit of our athletes who are the only ones to be present in competitions around the world at up to 30% and are also among the world's best results.
He detailed that the current development plan of the confederation has been split into two periods of five years each which will soon be adopted by the council, stressing that `` this plan is based on four fundamental aspects in our opinion '': realism, flexibility, efficiency and consideration.

Explaining these four key words, he will say that the CAA adapts to the reality on the ground of the national federations. The brand image of our discipline, which unfortunately does not make all of its athletes live on it except for a few great champions, is everyone's mission by the media and television. “We as a confederation must work together with world athletics to safeguard and keep all middle distance events on the program of meetings. The 5,000m and 10,000m races are "African" events and with the relays, they are more spectacular than many others.

The Technical Director noted with satisfaction the good job being done at the level of African preparation and training centers. As proof, he raised the performances of their athletes in international competitions.

Finally the CAA CEO welcomed this press conference and thanked the participants while regretting that many journalists were unable to access the platform due to technical difficulties. ‘’We will repeat this experience very soon," he concluded.

The communications officer Mr. Mohamed Zemmour took an active part in this conference with other African journalists including Mr. Oumar Ba, media manager of the CAA and Ms. Alice Annibali in charge of public relations at the World Athletics communication department. Mr. Zemmour assured that "the preparations for the African Championships in 2021 in Algiers are going well, especially with the renovation of the annex stadium which will be furnished with a new track".

Mohamed Zemmour (FAA) for the CAA.

TANZANIE: Mbaraka James in the footsteps of Filbert Bayi

Lining up against one of the country’s most versatile runners didn’t deter the unheralded Mbaraka James on his way to winning the men’s 1500m at the Tanzanian Championships, which drew to a close on Sunday (13) after two days of action at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam.

Jointly organised by National Sports Council (NSC), the Tanzanian Olympic Committee (TOC) and Athletics Tanzania (AT), the Tanzanian Championships took place for the first time in five years and brought together more than 200 athletes from 28 regions of the country.

James, representing the Tanga Region, won the 1500m in 3:47.12, beating Gabriel Geay – who has represented Tanzania at global and area championships – and Epimak Boniface. He started some distance behind Geay and Boniface, but gradually made up the distance on the pair. On the final lap, he overtook the duo to emerge the winner.

“It’s a National Championships, so I expected it to be a tough race,” said the 19-year-old. “My coach told me to train hard and follow his instructions, so I did exactly that and won. In Tanga, few people are involved in athletics, but with my achievement at this National Championships, many youngsters will follow into my footsteps.”

Former world record-holder Filbert Bayi, whose best of 3:32.2 still stands as the national record, is one of James’ idols.

“I can see myself becoming a top athlete,” he said. “My performance here has motivated me to work extra hard and reach the levels of my idol, Filbert Bayi.”

Angelina Tsele and Grace Charles, winners of the women’s 5000m and 1500m respectively, appreciated the opportunity to compete at a national championships. “Racing on this track against top athletes from other regions was not that easy, but I am happy that I have performed well,” said Tsele.

“Thanks to the full involvement of the TOC, the championships were very competitive,” added Charles. “I’m looking forward to representing the country at future international events.”

Athletics Tanzania’s acting secretary general Ombeni Zavalla and Vice PresidentKallaghe hailed the support from the government and promised that next year they will come back even stronger.

“After a five-year absence, this year we are back,” said Zavalla. “We really appreciate the support we received from the government and TOC to successfully host this event. I promise that next year we will host a championship even more successful than this year.”

The two-day event was officially opened by Ally Possi, deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Information, Arts, Culture and Sports.

“We will continue working with Athletics Tanzania and all stakeholders to help develop the sport,” he said. “We are committed to developing this sector as we know that, if well managed, it can be a source of income to many families.”

Coast Region emerged the overall winner of the championships, earning 12 medals (five gold, six silver and one bronze).

Robert Kalyahe, Secretary General of athletics in the Coast Region, attributed the success of his team to the support they receive from stakeholders, which includes the Filbert Bayi Foundation (FBF).

“This is a great achievement to our region,” said Kalyahe, “but this has come due to the hard work of our athletes, coaches, leaders of our association and the support we get from the Filbert Bayi Foundation.”

Joseph Mchekadona for World Athletics

CAA COUNCIL MEETING: Major competitions, African Athletic Tour in 2021; 2021-2025 strategic plan were discussed

 The CAA Council meeting held yesterday by video conference was marked by decisions concerning the holding in 2021 of major competitions (African Cross Country Championship, Senior African Championships and African Athletic Tour) which were initially planned for 2020 but postponed because of the COVID 19 pandemic. Togo and Algeria will therefore host these two events. The CAA and the authorities of these two countries are in discussions to set the final dates for the competitions.

The Confederation of African Athletics has also confirmed that the 2021 edition of the Continental Circuit of one-day meetings will take place in the following countries: (Ethiopia), (Congo), (Djibouti), (Nigeria), (Kenya), (South Africa) and (Cameroon). The host cities will be communicated in the next weeks.

As a reminder, the 2020 calendar was set as follows: Pretoria (March), Addis Ababa (May 31), Djibouti (April 3), Kaduna (April), Nairobi (May 2), Brazzaville (May), Yaoundé (May 23)

The Council also discussed the African athletics development strategy through the 2021-2025 plan.

Dabo and Busby after Doha: How a random act of kindness changed the lives of two athletes

Braima Dabo thought he did the obvious when he stopped to help Jonathan Busby on the tracks a year ago in Doha.

It was the opening heat of the men’s 5000m at the World Athletics Championships Doha 2019. The race had been won by Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega and every runner had crossed the line finish line except Dabo, representing Guinea-Bissau, and Jonathan Busby from Aruba.

Dabo was overtaking Busby when he observed that the Aruban was in real pain and wasn’t going to make it, so he stopped to help.

“This was someone who needed help,” says Dabo in Portuguese, “so I went to help, nothing more. It was normal.”

Except the world disagreed with Dabo; it was not an entirely ordinary thing to sacrifice one’s race to help a rival over the finish line. The pair received a standing ovation as they crossed the finish line together at the Khalifa Stadium in Doha, but that was nothing compared to what followed.

That singular act of rare sporting kindness hit headlines all over the world. The story appeared on TV, newspapers and was lauded online and on social media networks. A clip of the moment has, to date, had more than seven million views across World Athletics’ platforms.

Dabo was hailed for great sportsmanship and became the subject of media frenzy in Doha, something he did not quite understand.

“What happened in my life after that was like a nightmare,” says the 27-year-old with a big laugh. “When I saw the attention that people gave me in Doha, at first I was afraid. I did not understand why because I thought it was normal. It is only when I returned to Portugal that friends helped me understand why it was such a big deal.

“After that, I felt gratitude that people showed me love and cared about me and I felt blessed and I am very thankful to everyone.”

The Fair Play Award

In November 2019, Dabo and Busby flew to Monaco where the Bissau-Guinean received the International Fair Play Award at the World Athletics Awards.

“I was not expecting that because it was a spontaneous action, normal for me but when World Athletics gave me the award, it was like a dream and it was an award that motivated me to do all I want to do in athletics and my life.”

Many more fantastic things happened to the “small boy from Guinea-Bissau”, as Dabo describes himself.

Portuguese media were very interested in telling his story and that led to a series of surprising events, the most unexpected of which was receiving an invitation from a very high office in Portugal.

“The most important and strange thing that happened to me was when the president of Portugal invited me and gave me a distinction from what happened in Doha.

“A group here gave me a Christmas gift. They sent me to Guinea-Bissau to see my family after eight years! After that I went to Sao Tome for a talk with a motivation group and I was part of Tedx talks in Matosinhos.

“Some nice people crossed my path but life in the athletics world has not changed much. I still run with my shoes and shorts, everything is the same,” he jokes. “I was not expecting that, so it’s not so much to me personally, life has not changed so much, even if it has given me the opportunity to dream.”

Dabo has used his newfound popularity to do some good. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck Portugal, many African students were stranded with nowhere to turn to for help. Being a student himself, Dabo understood exactly what they were going through. The Bissau-Guinean had an idea.

“I thought if my name has value, why not start a help group to feed those who are all alone here,” says Dabo. “My institute and Carritas Portugal helped to collect some basic needs to help those who had no money and I am so proud about that.”

Busby after Doha

If Dabo has been living the dream since Doha, the man he helped has been living the complete opposite.

For Busby, the crippling pain he experienced that day on the track heralded a challenging period to come.

“In Doha it was a combination of dehydration plus injury,” says Busby. When he returned home, he continued to race with disappointing results.

“After Doha I participated in four races but I didn’t perform optimal. Normally I win races in the Caribbean but people started beating me, I got tired easily and the races were not like how it used to go. So I had to take a break.”

The 34-year-old long distance runner says he’s been trying to pinpoint the exact problem with little success.

“I’ve had x-rays on my hip and my back, but they saw nothing. I am still very stiff right now in my abductors.”

He received a lot of attention after Doha, but all of it wasn’t positive.

“At first I could see very positive messages from around the world. But then I saw some negative messages that affected me. I was struggling with them.”

To make things worse, Busby lost two jobs and his home, and then the coronavirus exploded in Aruba. He was later diagnosed with bipolar depression and spent more than three months in a clinic for treatment.

“I wasn’t getting allowance, no money, no job, nothing, because the situation in the country was really bad,” he says.

“So it’s not been so beautiful, no rainbows. I am just doing my best right now to keep positive. I am living at a friend’s house right now, just trying to get myself back together.”

A spotlight for athletics

The Aruba Athletics Federation and the Athletics Federation of Guinea-Bissau have benefited from the attention their athletes received.

“What he did was something very special,” says the President of the Athletics Federation of Guinea-Bissau, Renato Pappy Moura. “[It is] something that comes from him because that’s the way he really is.

“It was really good for us because people started talking more about our country and the humble people that we have, and people from our country started talking a lot more about athletics and that was really important for us.

“We are still living that dream.”

It had a positive effect in Aruba, too.

“It had ripple effects on the entire population of Aruba, not only on athletics,” says the General Secretary of the Aruba Athletics Federation, Nigel Nedd. “The ATIA (Aruba Trade Industry Association) had scheduled to bring Braima to Aruba on 18 March for an appreciation award, but this was all cancelled due to Covid-19.”

The pandemic has been catastrophic for many sectors on the island and has hit athletics particularly hard. This has limited the kind of help that the federation has been able to offer Busby during his difficulties.

“All of our athletes get professional help for their injuries, however, in Jonathan’s case he was also interned in a clinic to treat his depression,” explains Nedd. “This, of course, had a higher priority. It’s a very difficult period on the island at the moment. Many people are unemployed because Aruba is so dependent on the tourism industry which was completely shut down. It will take at least another year from this point forward before we can recover from this.”

The Bissau-Guinean federation is also experiencing difficulties.

“At the moment we are not doing much more than we should because we have some problems in the federation. We had those problems long before Braima did what he did, but what he did is not forgotten, so when the time comes we will use that to give them courage to keep going and to represent the best for our country.”

Friendship for life

Busby and Dabo have become fast friends, even with the distance and language barrier between them. Busby speaks no Portuguese and Dabo no English, so how have they managed to stay in touch?

“I downloaded a translator on my phone and when he says something I put it in there, so the language has never been a barrier,” says Busby.

“From the moment we had in Doha, Jonathan is like a brother,” says Dabo. “Jonathan told me all what was happening to him so I was worried. The Covid situation added stress to Jonathan’s life but we have talked about it and slowly things are getting better and now I am not so worried. I am happy and I hope the worst is over.

“I was really looking forward to visiting him in April when Aruba’s government sent me an invitation but with all of Covid -19 going on in the world, it was not possible to travel to Aruba. Jonathan is a very nice guy, very humble, so it’s a friendship for life.”

Busby reciprocates the growing bonds of friendship with Dabo.

“When I read the negative messages after Doha and I talked to Braima about it, he told me not to care about those things,” says Busby.

“We just talk, not every day, but we talk to each other. When I am missing, he does try to get me motivated and try to see where I am and what I am doing, why I am not posting things. He is a very kind person.”

Both of them are dreaming of competing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, now planned for the summer of 2021, although they are realistic about their qualification. They both know their best hope of making it would be through invitation, since they have been unable to fully train because of the pandemic for Dabo, and injury for Busby.

But what brought them together remains ever special, especially for the Aruban.

“That moment, I will never, ever forget it,” says Busby. “When he grabbed me around my shoulders, he has been like a brother to me ever since. It’s very special what he did for me and he’s been a special friend until now. He made this thing happen in Doha and all I can say is I am very happy I met him.”

Helen Ngoh for World Athletics

Joshua Cheptegei dethrones Kenenisa Bekele

Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei set a new world record in the 5,000m, covering the distance in just 12'35''36, during the Monaco Diamond League meeting, Friday August 14, against 12'37''35 in 2004 for the Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele.

With this feat, the 23-year-old athlete, reigning 10,000m world champion, thus holds three world records since he already had those in the 5 km and 10 km on the road.

On the women's side, Kenyan Hellen Obiri, two-time world champion in the 5,000m, confirmed her supremacy over the distance with a fast lap time, as she won in 14'22''12, the best world performance of the season and 17th fastest time in history.

Kenyan Faith Kipyegon set the second fastest time in history over 1000m 2'29''15, very close to Masterkova's record (2'28''98 in 1996).

World champion Timothy Cheruiyot of Kenya won the 1500m in 3'28''45.

The 3000m steeplechase event was dominated by Moroccan Soufiane El Bakkali in 8'8''04 (m.p.m.).

With a time of 47''10, the Norwegian Karsten Warholm achieved the eighth performance of all time over the 400m hurdles.