The closing weekend of the 2012 London Summer Olympics was a victorious one for Africa. On Friday, Meseret Defar of Ethiopia took gold in the women’s 5000m final. Fellow Ethiopian and strong gold medal contender Tirunesh Dibaba took bronze, while Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot of Kenya placed second. It was a clean sweep for Africa. Also on Friday, Oussama Mellouli of Tunisia took gold in the men’s 10km marathon swim. The anticipated men’s 4 x 400m final was not as successful for the South African men’s team as we would have liked. However, the team did finish in a seasonal best of 3:03.46.
Saturday was another successful day for African athletes. Anthony Oname of Gabon won silver in the men’s +80kg taekwondo final. Dejen Gebremeskel of Ethiopia a
nd Thomas Pkemei Longosiwa of Kenya won silver and bronze, respectively, in the men’s 5000m final.
Caster Semenya of South Africa finished second in the women’s 800m final. There is controversy around Semenya’s performance in the event. Spectators and commentators have accused the athlete of “throwing” the race. The BBC’s David Ornstein stated that it seemed Caster Semenya “had more left in the tank.” In the same article, BBC commentator Kelly Holmes is quoted having said, “She looked very strong, she didn’t look like she went up a gear, she wasn’t grimacing at all. I don’t know if her head was in it, when she crossed the line she didn’t look affected.”
The video of the final shows how Caster Semenya keeps a steady pace at the back of the group and in the last 200m she surges forward to take second place. Other sports journalists like Patricia Nell Warren disagreed with the sentiment that Semenya intentionally lost the final. She wrote in a recent article on SB Nation:
Semenya did spend 600 meters sitting at the rear of the pack, but she launched a scorching kick in the last 200 meters. Coming down the final straight, she was moving so fast that she made several women look like they were going backwards. It was a flash reminder about the enormous talent that Semenya has. But Maria Savinova was accelerating too, so Semenya finished more than a second behind the Russian.
It is unclear whether the controversy that followed Semenya’s 2009 success affected her performance, or if she simply failed at defeating Savinova.
In the final day of the Olympics, it was a clean sweep for Africa in the Men’s marathon. Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda won gold, and Kenya’s Abel Kirui and Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich won silver and bronze. All in all, the African delegation performed well, with a few upsets.
Kenya won the most number of medals, contributing 11 medals to the overall 31 medals won throughout eight African countries. It is evident that the nation is a dominating force in long-distance events, with its medals accumulating in the men’s 800m, men’s 3000m steeplechase, men’s and women’s 5000m, men’s and women’s marathon, and women’s 10,000m events. More excitingly, though, is Kenya’s recent bid for the 2024 Olympics games. According to CP-Africa, Kenya’s Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, told the Financial Times “Kenya had the confidence as far back as 1968 to consider bidding for the Olympics.”
Even though the country is facing strong competition from the USA, Kenya is positive and working toward winning the bid to be the first African nation to host this auspicious athletic event. After the success of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, we are positive that Kenya has the potential to host yet another major international athletic competition.
This will indeed signal a huge shift in the international perception of Africa. It is not a rare that African athletes excel at the Olympics, but it would be a huge feat for an African nation to host it. Kenyan athletes have been consistent medal winners at the Olympic games, and it would seem appropriate that the nation host it.
For more on sports in Africa, visit sports.africa.com!