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Africa’s promising sports future evident at the 13th Africa Games in Accra

THE 13th Africa Games in Ghana revealed Africa's bright sports future, featuring diverse disciplines and standout performances by rising stars. Experts view the event's gaps as opportunities for enhancing future editions.

AFTER three weeks of intense field and track event actions across multiple venues in Accra, the 13th edition of the Africa Games came to a close this past weekend.

The pan-African sporting event has, yet again, showcased Africa’s rich and diverse sports talent, with more than 35 countries participating across 23 sports disciplines.

Egypt led with 107 gold, 47 silver, and 42 bronze medals, totalling 191. Nigeria followed with 121, Algeria 114, South Africa 106, and Tunisia 88. Hosts Ghana achieved a record 68 medals, including 19 golds, their best ever in the African Games.

The range of sports, from swimming to weightlifting and badminton to table tennis, showcases diverse disciplines and exceptional athletes. Record-breaking medal counts by some athletes signal a promising future ahead.

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In swimming, 20-year-old South African Caitlin De Lange claimed 7 medals, including 5 golds. Her silver medals came in the women’s 50m butterfly and 50m freestyle events.

Another South African, 19-year-old Catherine Van Rensburg, who earned six medals, captures the significance of the Accra Games in her career, describing it as a “major highlight” for her.

“I was at a stage where I was feeling stuck and insecure in my own ability to achieve my swimming goals. Ghana has given me confidence and the belief that my goals are achievable,” she explains in an interview on the South African Sports Confederation Committee website.

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29-year-old Egyptian Farida Osman is, however, the top multi-medallist with 8 medals in the swimming category.

In athletics, records fell as both amateur and seasoned athletes showcased their potential. Kenya’s Mary Moraa, the world 800-meter champion, comfortably won the 400m final, becoming the third Kenyan woman to do so in 37 years. Tekla Chemabwai first won gold in 1973 in Lagos, followed by Francisca Chepkurui in 1987 in Nairobi.

Kenya also celebrated in tennis as 20-year-old Angela Okutoyi secured a spot in the Paris Olympics by defeating Egyptian Lamis Al-Hussein, ranked 562nd in the World Tennis Association’s singles. Okutoyi, now ranked 532nd, rose from 590th before the Accra clash.

Nigerian Nnamdi Chinecherem emerged as a top javelin thrower in Africa, surpassing records set by veterans like Julius Yego of Kenya and Mostafa Mahmoud Abdel of Egypt, who settled for silver and bronze. Chenecherem achieved an 82.80-meter throw on his first attempt.

The Accra event showcased a variety of sports talent across Africa, highlighting Eritrea and Mauritius’ cycling dominance. Eritrea secured 13 cycling medals, just ahead of South Africa, while Mauritius claimed third place.

Even as these athletes shine in their disciplines, raising the par for their countries, the 13 Africa Games event has not been without its misses.

South Africa, for example, withdrew their hockey teams from the Africa Games due to venue issues, as stated by SASCOC. It was the first time hockey was included in the competition.

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Delays were also reported in other disciplines due to logistical and venue glitches.

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However, according to Kennedy Barasa, a Kenyan rugby coach, there is a need to recognise the event’s successes while also taking note of the mishaps, which can be used to improve future events.

“We cannot bury our heads in the sand and claim it is (was) a perfect event, it has not quite hit the chords right,” he explained.

“However, let’s not forget the more than 90% success it has achieved. When we have our future stars out there showing Africa and the world what they are capable of doing, that, to me, is a big success,” he asserted.

Beyond individual countries and athletes’ successes, the tournament, which cost Ghana up to US$250 million to host has led to the development of critical sports infrastructure.

Apart from projects such as the Borteyman Sports Complex that were developed and others renovated as a result of hosting the event, Ghana also recently commissioned the Ghana Stadium, a key addition to the country’s sports infrastructure.

According to Rugby Africa, the governing body of rugby in Africa, the stadium in Ghana is the “first international standard rugby stadium in West Africa.” The Rugby Stadium is hosted at the University of Ghana.

The audience reach outside Accra improved during the competition, with live streaming on YouTube and automatic updates on the competition’s website.

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While official audience figures on audience reach are still pending, the event’s local organizing committee secured a vital partnership with the popular short video platform, TikTok, allowing fans to access exciting, boosted content such as “behind-the-scenes moments, team arrivals, interview sessions and live game content.”

Some events also aired live on Supersport, allowing live content access to its more than 20 million customers.

The 13th Africa Games came to a close on Saturday, March 23 at an event hosted at the University of Ghana with headline performances from various African music artists.

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By BONFACE ORUCHO, BIRD STORY AGENCY

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