The 31st edition of the Olympic Games will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 5th August to 21st August, 2016. African athletes have dominated the middle and long-distance races at the Games since inception in 1896.
Just as in other championships like World Athletics Championships and International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Diamond League circuit, they are expected to dominate over the middle and long-distances at the Rio Games.
Below are 12 athletes from the continent to watch at this year’s games.
Sources; CAPITAL FM, RUNNER’S WORLD, iaaf.org, The Courier Mail, Sports Illustrated, IAAF Diamond League, MIRROR, Sports Mole
He is a Kenyan 800m runner. Rudisha holds the world record of 1:40:91 that he set on the way to winning the gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. He is also the reigning world champion in the same distance. On 5th June 2016, he set a meeting record of 1:13:10 in the 600m at the Birmingham Diamond League in United Kingdom. He will be seeking to cement his place as the greatest athlete ever in the 800m with a gold at the Rio Games.
She is a South African 800m runner. Her career has been dogged by controversy over her gender due to high levels of testosterone which was deemed to give her competitive advantage. The issue was cleared by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2015. She won gold at the World Athletics Champions in 2009 before losing the crown in 2012 when she won silver. Semenya heads to the Rio Games as a favorite for the 800m gold due to her blistering form in the same distance in the 2016 Diamond League season. She has already run the two fastest times in the 800m in 2016.
He is a Kenyan marathoner. Kipchoge announced his arrival on the international stage with a gold in the Men’s 5000m at the World Championships in France in 2003. He retired from the track after 10 years and joined road running in 2012. He has competed in seven marathon races, winning six of them, including the Hamburg, Berlin, Chicago, Rotterdam and London Marathon races. In April 2016, he defended his London Marathon crown in a course record time of 2:03:04, which is also the second fastest time in the history of marathon running. A gold at the Olympic Games will cement his place as one of the greatest marathoners in history. He is son to Kipchoge Keino, one of Kenya’s greatest middle-distance runners and a legend in world athletics.
She is an Ethiopian long-distance runner. Tirunesh won gold in the 10,000m at the Olympic Games in Beijing (2008) and London (2012). She has never lost in the same distance in her career. She won gold in the 10,000m at the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow, Russia. In 2014. She made her marathon debut, finishing third at the London Marathon. Dibaba will be making her return to the track after giving birth to her son, Nathan Sileshi in March 2015. A gold at the Rio Games will make her the first athlete in Olympics history to clinch three gold medals in a row in the 10,000m.
She is the younger sister to Tirunesh Dibaba. She is set to compete in the 1,500m and 5,000m. Genzebe won gold in the 1500m at the 2012 World Indoor Championships. She defended the title at the 2014 championships. She holds the World Indoor Record in the 3000m. At the World Athletics Championships in Beijing in 2015, Genzebe won gold in the 1,500m. She was named the IAAF World Athlete of the Year in 2015. Genzebe set the World record of 3:50:07 in 1,500m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco in July 2015.
He is a Kenyan 1500m runner. Kiprop is the reigning World champion in the distance, after winning gold at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Beijing in 2015. He also won the crown in Daegu, South Korea (2011) and Moscow, Russia (2013). He is a multiple African Champion in the 1,500m, winning gold in the 2007 All-African Games and 2010 African Athletics Championships. In July 2015, he set a meeting record of 3:26:69 in the 1500m at the Monaco Diamond League. Kiprop will go to the Rio Games in confident mood after setting a meeting record of 3:29:33 at the Birmingham Diamond League in June, 2016.
He is a Kenyan steeplechase runner. Kipruto is former World junior champion in the same distance, in Lille, France (2011) and Barcelona, Spain in 2012. Kipruto won silver at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow, Russia (2013) and Beijing, China in 2015. On 5th June, 2016, Kipruto set a world leading time of 8:00:12 at the Birmingham Diamond League meeting. He has also won the Doha, Rabat and Rome legs of the 2016 Diamond League circuit.
He is an Ethiopian 800m runner. Aman won gold at the 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland becoming the youngest winner aged 20 years. He won gold at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow, Russia in 2013 and won Aman is a multiple World and African junior champion. Aman is the first Ethiopian to win an 800m World title, with his 2013 victory in Moscow. He is one of David Rudisha’s fiercest rivals.
She is a Kenyan middle-distance runner, specializing in the 1,500m. Chepngetich is the current Commonwealth Games champion in 1,500m, after clinching gold in the Glasgow Games in 2014. She is a multiple World junior champion, winning titles in 2011, 2012 and 2013. In 2014, she was part of the Kenyan women’s team that won gold in 4*1,500m relay at the IAAF World Relays in Nassau, Bahamas. In 2015, she won silver in the 1,500m at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Beijing, China. Kipyegon has enjoyed blistering form in the 2016 IAAF Diamond League circuit. She set a Kenyan record of 3:56:82 in the Shanghai leg in China on May 14, 2016. She is considered the biggest threat to Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba in the Rio Games.
He is a Kenyan track and field athlete specializing in Javelin. Yego is popularly known as ‘The YouTube Athlete’ because he did not have a coach but relied on watching clips on YouTube to horn his skills. Yego is the African and Commonwealth record holder, with a throw of 92.72 metres which he set on his way to winning the IAAF World Athletics Javelin gold in Beijing, China in 2015. He won gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. Yego won gold at the 2011 All-African Games and the 2012 African Athletics Championships. Yego is the first Kenyan to win gold in a field event.
She is a Nigerian track and field athlete specializing in long jump and the 100m and 200m sprints. Okagbare is the Commonwealth Games record holder in 100m with a time of 10:85, set at the Glasgow Games in 2014. Okagbare also holds the African record at 10:79. Okagbare won Bronze medal in the Long Jump at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. In 2010, she won double-gold in the 100m and Long Jump. She won silver medal in the Long Jump at the 2013 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow. Okagbare is hoping Nigerian National Sports Commission lifts its ban on her, to enable her compete at the Rio Games.
He is a 19-year old Nigerian footballer, playing as a winger for English giants, Arsenal. Iwobi declared his desire to play for the Super Eagles Under-23 as one of the three over-age players, in the Rio Games. Iwobi was a teenage revelation in Arsenal’s 2015-16 season, scoring two goals in his debut season. He is nephew to Jay-Jay Okocha, one of Nigeria’s greatest ever footballers.