South Africa's Sunette Viljoen in action in the javelin (© Getty Images)
Ten years after winning her first African title – the first major title of her career – South African javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen won another gold medal in Marrakech on Wednesday (13), the fourth day of action at the African Championships.
Of the four African titles she has now won, this was her most impressive. She opened her campaign by breaking the championship record with 63.39m. She then added almost another two metres to that with a season’s best of 65.32m.
After two throws in the 57-metre region, she rounded out her series with 62.23m and 65.21m. Her nearest opponent, Ghana’s Mary Nartey, finished almost 13 metres adrift.
Viljoen, who took bronze at the 2011 IAAF World Championships and holds the African record with 69.35m, now has more javelin gold medals from the African Championships than any other athlete, male or female, in the 35-year history of the event.
It also gave Viljoen some minor consolation after she recently missed out on winning what would have been a third Commonwealth title, eventually settling for the silver medal in Glasgow.
Chepkirui and Mokoena top the podium again
One of the themes of this year’s African Championships has been athletes following up their recent Commonwealth titles with another gold medal in Marrakech. Tonight, Kenya’s Joyce Chepkirui and South Africa’s Godfrey Mokoena continued that trend.
In the women’s 10,000m, Kenya fielded the same three women who filled the podium at the Commonwealth Games: Chepkirui, Florence Kiplagat and Emily Chebet. Chepkirui once again came out on top, only this time it was much closer with just 0.01 separating her from Chebet, the two-time world cross-country champion.
Kiplagat was a non-starter, leaving the way clear for Ethiopia’s Belaynesh Oljira to replicate her finish from last year’s World Championships, taking the bronze medal four seconds behind the Kenyan duo.
Two days ago, Mokoena lost out on the gold medal in the long jump by just six centimetres, but today he won the triple jump by the same margin.
Having returned to the event this season after a seven-year hiatus, Mokoena picked up his second major title in as many weeks, winning with a leap of 17.03m. Just like at the Commonwealth Games earlier this month, defending champion Tosin Oke had to settle for second place.
Gold at last for Al-Gamel, Koala wins heptathlon
Having taken the silver medal in 2008, followed by bronze medals in 2010 and 2012, African record-holder Mostafa Al-Gamel finally won the gold medal in the men’s hammer.
The 25-year-old was utterly dominant, and broke the championship record in the first round with 79.09m, the second-best throw of his career after the African record of 81.27m he set earlier this year.
Each of his valid subsequent throws would have been sufficient to win from defending champion and six-time winner Chris Harmse (73.90m).
Algeria’s defending champion Yasmina Omrani had a significant overnight lead in the heptathlon, but her hopes of a second successive title came crashing down after picking up an injury in warm-up for the long jump, forcing her to withdraw.
Burundi’s Marthe Koala, having set a season’s best of 6.03m in the long jump, then took up the lead. She rounded out the competition with PBs in the javelin (37.41m) and 800m (2:31.61) to take the overall title with a national record of 5454.
Just like the decathlon, the heptathlon at the African Championships forms part of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge.
Nigerian sweep in sprint hurdles, Rahme comes of age
For the first time ever in the 110m hurdles at the African Championships, one nation took all the medals on offer. Nigeria’s Ty Akins won in 13.57 from team-mates Alex Al-Ameen and Ogieriakhi Martins, who clocked 13.78 and 13.80 respectively.
In 2009, South African pole vaulter Cheyne Rahme won the African junior title, and one year later set an African junior record of 5.50m. Today, he won his first major title as a senior, clearing 5.41m. He bettered by one centimetre the championship record set by fellow South African Okkert Brits.
World champions Sum and Kiprop through to finals
Elsewhere, world 800m champion Eunice Sum was a comfortable winner of her heat, clocking 2:02.43. Kenyan team-mate Agatha Jeruto also impressed, setting a PB of 1:59.88 to win her heat, while the other heat was won by Ethiopian teenager Tigist Assefa.
World champion Asbel Kiprop won his 1500m heat in 3:43.87 from world junior record-holder Ronald Kwemoi and world indoor champion Ayanleh Souleiman. All three could well challenge for the top three spots in the final too.
The other heat was won by 2012 world indoor bronze medallist Mekonnen Gebremedhin with Commonwealth champion James Magut and world bronze medallist Johan Cronje also advancing by right.
Winner of the 100m title two days ago, Ivory Coast’s Hua Wilfried Koffi was the fastest in the 200m rounds, clocking 20.32 in the semis and adding another national record to his collection. 400m champion Isaac Makwala was just 0.02 behind in the same race.
Ivory Coast’s Murielle Ahoure and Marie Josee Ta Lou, the silver and bronze medallists in the 100m, also won their 200m semi-finals.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF