SETH ONYANGO, BIRD NEWSROOM
DESPITE winning fewer medals than at the Rio Summer Olympics in 2016, African athletes left a significant mark at the international multi-sport event in Tokyo, with Egypt registering its most successful Olympic run ever.
African athletes left a long-lasting impression at the just concluded Tokyo Summer Olympics, defying a raging global pandemic to scoop history-making medals in unlikely sporting disciplines.
Thirteen African nations won medals, with Burkina Faso’s Hugues Fabrice Zango earning his country’s first-ever Olympic medal when he bagged bronze in the men’s triple jump.
Similarly, Tunisian teen Ahmed Hafnaoui swam his way into his country’s history books, stunning the world to win the continent’s first-ever gold medal in men’s 400m freestyle swimming event.
Tellingly, Hafnaoui did not even wear a customary track uniform to the medal podium, suggesting that one wasn’t made for him since he was considered unlikely to win.
As victory outside Africa’s traditional medal-winning orbit continued to surprise both the continent and the Olympics fraternity, Egypt completed its most successful Olympic run.
On Saturday (August 7), Feryal Abdelaziz, 22, won gold in the women’s Kumite karate (+61 kg) to secure Egypt’s first Olympic medal of that colour since the 2004 games. She also made history as the first Egyptian woman to have won a gold medal at the games.
Earlier on Saturday, her compatriot Ahmed Elgendy became the first African to win an Olympic medal in the modern pentathlon as he bagged silver behind Britain’s Joe Choong.
Egypt took home a total of six medals in Tokyo – one gold, one silver, and four bronzes, surpassing their best tally of five, which they achieved in 1936, 1948, and 2004.
South Africa’s Bianca Buitendag won silver in women’s surfing, which debuted at this year’s edition of the Games, while compatriot Delaine Mentoor made history as the first woman to coach a male water polo team at the Olympics.
On the track, Botswana’s Isaac Makwala, Baboloki Thebe, Zibani Ngozi, and Bayapo Ndori set a new African record and became the first nation on the continent to win a medal in the 4x400m relay since 2004 with a time of 2 minutes and 57.27 seconds.
Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei became the first Ugandan in history to claim two Olympic medals, winning golds in both the men’s 5,000 and 10,000m.
In another impressive run, Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon, who gave birth to a daughter in 2018, defended the Olympic 1500m title she first claimed in 2016.
Before the Tokyo games, only one African woman – Cameroonian triple jumper Francoise Mbango – had ever successfully retained an Olympic title after having a baby between competitions.
Kipyegon’s compatriot Eliud Kipchoge, defended his Olympic marathon title, to earn the indomitable nickname “King Choge”.
With his triumph, Kipchoge cemented his place as arguably the greatest marathon runner of all time, being the only man to have run the distance in under two hours.
As Japan took its Olympic bow on Sunday and passed the baton to France, Africa’s athletes were able to look back at an Olympics that was challenging in many new and unusual ways and which also made it more clear than ever before that African nations, right across the continent, are ready to compete at the highest level, in a wider range of sports than ever before.
Top African Countries at the OlympicsCountry G S B Total
1 (19) Kenya 4 4 2 10
2 (36) Uganda 2 1 1 4
3 (52) South Africa 1 2 0 3
4 (54) Egypt 1 1 4 6
5 (56) Ethiopia 1 1 2 4
6 (58) Tunisia 1 1 0 2
7 (63) Morocco 1 0 0 1
8 (74) Nigeria 0 1 1 2
9 (77) Namibia 0 1 0 1
10 (86) Botswana 0 0 1 1
10 (86) Burkina Faso 0 0 1 1
10 (86) Ivory Coast 0 0 1 1
10 (86) Ghana 0 0 1 1
Editing by Nest, bird’s virtual newsroom This work was made possible through the support of #AfricaNoFilter, a sponsored project of Rockefellar Philanthropy Advisors.