Africa will be well represented at the Summer Olympic Games this year, and this is your guide to the best and most stellar athletes and nations that will represent the continent at London 2012.
Africa’s countries are long time members of the Olympic family with the continent’s nations participating in the modern Olympiad since 1908, when South Africa was the lone sub Saharan team participating in London.
The second participant was Egypt in 1928 in Amsterdam. The level of participation changed in 1960 with the onslaught of African countries gaining independence from colonialism; Africans participated prior to this date, but generally as team members of their respective colonial powers. African nations are now successful participants on the world Olympic stage.
Ethiopia, South Africa, Kenya Nigeria and Ghana probably have the best chance of winning the most medals at the 2012 Games. Their athletes are phenomenal, their Olympic programs run deep and they rule the long and middle distance events while countries like Togo are only sending 2 athletes to London because they can’t afford to send more even if they qualified.
However that doesn’t mean that every other African nation won’t have a chance to shine. In 2012, boxing has given the chance for many smaller sporting African countries to be represented in the Olympics (like Algeria, Botswana, Cameroon, Swaziland and the DRC) and it looks like badminton, taekwondo and judo are also offering African athletes a chance to compete on the world stage. Botswana even has their first potential Olympic medal winner running the 400m.
While South Sudan will miss out due to its nascent state, Somalia will make an appearance despite appalling training conditions and lack of funding.
There’s another plus for Africa: The IOC will provide live coverage of the London Olympics to 64 countries in Asia and Africa on YouTube for free. The International Olympic Committee says it will live stream 2,200 hours of coverage on its YouTube channel. The free coverage will include live sports events and highlights and can be accessed online or on smartphones and devices.
Individual African Countries and Athletes at the Olympics
Botswana’s Amantle Montsho
Angola will feature in canoeing, handball, judo, swimming as well as basketball. Its basketball team is Africa’s best and they’re hoping to contend for a medal. Watch out for MVP Nacissela Mauricio whose ready aim fired Angola to their first Afrobasket Women title in late 2011 resulting in a spot in the London Games. Angola is also sending a woman’s handball team, 2 swimmers to the Games, and a judo qualifier.
Benin is sending one boxer, Shafiq Chitou, and one judoka (judo athlete), Jacob Nel Gnahoui.
Botswana will have a small but worthy representation at the Games. Amantle Montsho, the reigning world champion in the 400m sprint, has an excellent chance of bringing home her country’s first Olympic medal. As a young girl, she ran after ostriches through the vast dry farmlands to get to school in northern Botswana. Her inspiration came from father who ran a small store selling basic goods and told his daughter ran “like a boy”. Find out more about Amantle from this NYT article. Oteng Oteng is Botswana’s boxing flyweight hopeful and the nation will also be represented in the athletics 400m sprint.
Burkina Faso’s Brice Bassole will be competing in boxing as a featherweight hopeful. The nation will also have a female representation in judo.
Cape Verde has one qualifier for women’s judo.
Egypt - While Egypt’s star sports are weightlifting and wrestling, its athletes have also qualified for – who would have guessed it – synchronised swimming. Egyptians will also be watching their athletes in modern pentathlon, shooting, badminton, boxing, handball, rowing, gymnastics, fencing and archery events. Egypt has just over 100 contestants competing in these events with no obvious medal contenders, but they will be an interesting team to watch.
Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele
Ethiopia’s runners will be a definite focus for Africa. Kenenisa Bekele is this year’s hope for Ethiopia’s Track and Field gold chances.The reigning champion in the 5000m and the two-time reigning champion in the 10,000m, Bekele is arguably the greatest long distance runner in history. He will only be 30 years old at the Olympics, so as long as he is able to fully recover from a 2010 calf injury, it should be another memorable Olympics for the Ethiopian, who holds the world records in both the 5000m and 10,000m.
Eritrea has qualified one cyclist for the Olympics and will also compete in the Men’s 5,000m, Men’s marathon and has two runners slated for the Men’s 10,000m.
Gabon’s boxers - Braexir Romeo Lemboumba and Yannick Audrey Mitoumba Mbemy – will be representing the country as will memebrs of its judo and taekwondo teams. Gabon’s football team has also made it to the Olympics and 1 athelete will compete in the 100m sprint.
Ghana has traditionally dominated in boxing and athletics but this year has introduced and qualified for judo. Watch out for boxers Tetteh Sulemanu, Duke Akueteh Micah, Isaac Zion Kojo Dogboe and Maxwell Amponsah. In athletics, Ghana will feature in the Men’s long jump, Women’s 200m, Women’s heptathlon and the Men’s 100m.
The Gambia will take part in the Men’s 100m represented by Suwaibou Sanneh, who set a national record for The Gambia in the men’s 100m meters all comers’ track in Jamaica in late May 2012 when he was ranked 2nd overall with a time of 10.22secs.
Kenya’s 800m star, David Rudisha
Kenya is one of Africa’s most successful sporting nations in the world and their Olympic squad will be made up of some fo the world’s most disciplined athletes. Kenya first participated at the Olympic Games in 1956, and has sent athletes to compete in every Summer Olympic Games since then, except for the boycotted 1976 and 1980 Games.
Double world champion over 5000m and 10000m in 2011, Kenya’s 28-year-old Vivian Cheruiyot hopes to confirm her domination of women’s long distance running. Her date with Olympic destiny comes five years after her 5000m world silver medal in Osaka behind the Ethiopian great Meseret Defar and three years after her first world title over the same distance when the 2009 championships took place in Berlin.
David Rudisha is another emerging star and one of the most exciting 800m runners to emerge in recent times who could go on to be one of the all-time greats after breaking the world record in 2010 (also the current World Record holder) and winning the world title one year later in Daegu. The streamlined Rudisha at 1.90m, now targets the holy grail of Olympic gold in London where he might just go on to break the mythical barrier of 1min 40secs over two laps of the track for a feat never seen before. Dominant all season, he comfortably secured a place in the Kenyan Olympics team in mid June and a trip to his first Olympics. (FYI - Rudisha’s father, Daniel, won silver at the 1968 Olympics on Kenya’s 4×400 team)
Other athletes to look out for will be Silas Kiplagat, Nixon Chepseba, Asbel Kiprop (500m), Isaiah Kiplangat Koech (5000m), and Marathoners Wilson Kipsang, Abel Kirui, Emmanuel Mutai (men) and Mary Keitany, Edna Kiplagat, Priscah Jeptoo (women).
Kenya will be also be represented by two Kenyan boxers, flyweight Ben Gicharu and female boxer Elizabeth Andiego. In swimming the Dunford brothers, Jason and David will represent the country.
Madagascar has a couple of athletes competing in wrestling judo and weightlifting .
Malawi’s Mike Tebulo will compete in the men’s marathon. Ambwene Simukonda will participate in the women’s 400m sprint. Swimmers Joyce Tafatha and Charlton Nyirenda will compete in the women’s and men’s 50 m freestyle swim, respectively.
Mali’s taekwondo hopeful Daba Modibo Keita
Mali will be sending judo, boxing and taekwondo athletes including Daba Modibo Keita, for whom taekwondo is a means to an end. The heavyweight fighter started off as a football player in his native Mali, but without a strong national team, Keita figured he had a better chance of getting to the Olympics with taekwondo. Returning to Mali in 2003 after playing professional football in Angola, Keita began to train seriously in the Korean martial art, having won several tournaments as a junior. Just four years later, he won his first world championship — the first African ever to do so.
“I cried,” the 31-year-old Keita said. “I didn’t think it was possible for a world taekwondo champion to come from Africa. ”But now my dream is to win at the Olympics.”
Last month, Keita was awarded a wildcard spot to compete at the London Games. He is currently ranked 42nd in the men’s over-80 kilogram division after taking some time off to recover from a knee injury. He was third at the African Olympic taekwondo qualifiers and won world championship titles in 2007 and 2009.
Mauritius will be represented by boxers Oliver Lavigilante and Richarno Colin. Other members of the squad will compete in cycling, volleyball and triathlon.
Morocco’s Jaouad Gharib
Morocco – About 80 Moroccan athletes to travel to London for the 2012 Olympic Games. In London, marathon runner Jaouad Gharib will look to built upon his silver in Beijing. Their football team has also qualified for the Games as have Sanae Atebrour, Wiam Dislam and Issam Chernoubi (taekwondo), Ali Xavier (Foil) and Abdelkarim El Houari (Sword) (Fencing), Asmae Namli, Adil jelloul, Mohssine Lahssaini, Soufiane Haddi, Reda Adel, Mohamed Abelwache and Ismaïl Ayoune (Cycling), Attafi Choukri and Fouad Faraji (Wrestling).
Mozambique has qualified for the Men’s 400m hurdles and boxer, Juliano Fernando Gento Maquina, will represent the nation in the 49Kg class. They also have a judo athlete competing this year.
Namibia - Nine Namibians are their country’s hopefuls for the Games. They include sprinting sensation Tjipekapora Herunga, wrestler Sam Shilimela, Dan Craven (cycling), Mejandjae Kasuto and Jonas Matheus (both boxing), Sem Shilimela (wrestling), Marc Bassingthwaighte (mountain bike), Beata Naigambo and Hilalia Johannes (both marathon), and Tjipee Herunga (athletics). Also watch out for one of Namibia’s top shootist, Gaby Ahrens.
Nigeria’s Uhunoma Osazuwa
Nigeria will send 78 athletes to the Games in 2012 - to compete in athletics, boxing, canoeing, table tennis, taekwondo, weightlifting, and wrestling. One Nigerian to watch out for is American-based Uhunoma Osazuwa, a heptathelete who, barely two months after ending Patience Itanyi’s 12 years reign as Nigeria’s heptathlon record holder in May 2012, bettered the mark to a new 6,049 points. Uhunoma consigned to history the 5,992 heptathlete points she chalked up in April to become the country’s best in track & field sport.
Rwanda has a cyclist qualified for the men’s cross country mountain biking tournament, and Fred Yannick Sekamana Uwase will compete in men’s judo.
Senegal - Back in April 2012, Senegal claimed the final place in the men’s Olympic football tournament with a deserved 2-0 victory over Oman in a play-off match in Coventry, England. Senegal will also feature Women’s 200 m and 400 m dashes and Alexandre Bouzaid will be its solo fencer in the individual épée fencing event.
Senegal’s Alexandre Bouzaid will compete in the individual épée fencing event.
Somalia is sending 2 athletes to the Olympics and still hope for gold. To qualify, the athletes trained in a bullet-riddled stadium where the remains of a rocket propelled grenade lay discarded on the track’s edge. A year or so ago, Mogadishu’s Konis stadium was a base for Islamist militants and a work out meant at times running through the streets, dodging gun-fire and mortar shells in one of the world’s most dangerous cities.
South Africa - An initial team of 112 athletes will represent South Africa at this year’s London Olympics. The team is a broad mix of experience and youth. Team sports form the bulk of the team thus far with the women’s football side taking a squad of 18 players and the men’s and women’s hockey sides each taking 16 players.
In the individual sports, as expected, aquatics and athletics feature highly with 16 swimmers and 11 athletes being selected. A total of 16 sporting codes will be represented, ranging from archery to weightlifting and it will be the first time that the national women’s side, fondly known as Banyana Banyana, will compete at the Olympics.
For swimming, Athens gold medallist Roland Schoeman joins fellow swimmer Ryk Neethling and athlete Hendrik Ramaala as four-time Olympians, the most by any South African to date. Schoeman has previously competed for South Africa at the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics.
In athletics, 400m hurdles bronze medallist LJ van Zyl and Commonwealth Games champion javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen will compete as will 2009′s world 800-meter champion Caster Semenya for whom this will be her first Olympics.
South Africa’s Caster Semenya
After her dominating victory at the 2009 World Championships, Semenya’s critics claimed that she had a physical condition that gave her an advantage over other female racers. The IAAF controversially gave Semenya gender tests and she wasn’t allowed to participate in certain events in 2010. Semenya has since been cleared to race in any future events including the Olympics.
South Africa’s athletics team will also feature a full-strength line-up of three men and three women’s marathon athletes.
Sudan In 2012, 22 year old runner Abubaker Kaki is hoping to take on the Kenyans and win the first ever gold medal in the 800m for his country. Kaki competed in the two-lap race at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, but was not able to advance to the final. Another athlete, Ismail Ahmed Ismail, won silver in the event, becoming the first Sudanese to win an Olympic medal in history. It was Sudan’s only medal at the 2008 Olympic Games. Sudan will also be represented in athletics - the men’s 400m, 1500m and men’s marathon.
The Sudanese athletes are woefully short of decent training grounds and are largely sponsored by British charities, in stark contrast to their neighbors, Ethiopia and Kenya who have some very robust athletic programs in place with lots of sponsorship opportunities for individual athletes.
Sudan’s Abubaker Kaki
Tanzania’s athletes will make their presence known in the Men’s marathon and women’s 5000m, while Selemani Salum Kidunda will compete in the 69 kg boxing division.
Togo - cashstrapped and not in a position to maintain a full representation at the Games, nonetheless Togo will compete in London 2012 by invitation. Benjamin Boukpeti will feature in the Men’s K-1 canoeing races, Kouami Sacha Denanyoh in the judo 81 kg division and Komi Mawussi Agbetoglo in the men’s table tennis tournament.
Tunisia has a large Olympic squad who will compete in athletics, basketball, boxing, canoeing, fencing, swimming, gymnastics, handball, rowing, wrestling, tennis, etc. One Tunisian is to out an eye for is Ous Mellouli, the reigning gold medalist in the swimming 1500-meter freestyle. In his off-time, the Tunisian is a graduate coach at his alma mater Southern Cal. It’s rumored that in 2012 he’ll go after the 400-meter freestyle, an event he won the silver medal in during the 2009 World Championships.
Tunisia’s Ous Mellouli
Uganda has a healthy delegation of several athletes, swimmers and Africa’s number 1 badminton player, Edwin Ekiring. Earlier this year runner Janet Achola reclaimed her 1500m women’s national record after posting a time of 4:05.52 at the 30th Fanny Blankers-Koen Games in Hengelo, Netherlands, a feat that also qualified her for the London Olympics. She had set the 4:09.51 mark during the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games, before Annet Negesa re-wrote it with 4:09.17 at the Africa Junior championships in Gaborone last year. At the same meet, Negesa confirmed her readiness to challenge the top runners at the London Games by running below 2 minutes over the 800m distance.
Zambia’s Gilbert Choombe will represent his nation in the Light welterweight boxing title. Other athletes from Zambia will feature in the 800m and 5000m athletics as well as judo.
Zimbabwe, despite its current political turmoil, is sending a considerable delegation to the Olympics. Kirsty Coventry is Zimbabwe’s biggest medal hopeful, she won 3 medals in Athens and is the current world record holder in the 200m backstroke. After this success ABC reports “Several newborn babies were named Kirsty, some with the middle name Coventry, others were even called “Goldmedal” or “Threemedals” to celebrate her Athens haul.”
Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry
Watch out for Zimbabwe’s top female long-distance runner Sharon Tavengwa who wrote her own piece of history when she qualified for the London Games in April by posting a time of 2 hours 35 minutes, eclipsing the qualification time set at 2 hours 37 minutes for women.
Another Zimbabwean to look out for is sprinter and long jumper Ngonidzashe Makusha - the national record holder over 100m and Long Jump for Zimbabwe with 9.89s (+1.3 m/s) and 8.40m (0.0 m/s) respectively.
Afritorial.com wishes all our athletes the very best – may you compete with courage and win with grace.
Sports Illustrated – Olympic Athletes by Country
All Africa - http://allafrica.com