The 2016 Rio Olympics provide an opportunity for African countries to earn medals for Olympic sports in competition with the best athletes and sportsmen and women from around the world.
Taking place in Brazil during the month of August, the summer games offer African nations the opportunity to display their excellence on the world stage, with a number of Olympic events emerging as sports in which African teams will do well.
With this in mind, we take a closer look at 8 Olympic sports that teams from the African continent will likely excel at.
African nations have often done well in athletics, with the East African athletes in particular excelling in track events. Kenya and Ethiopia often dominate the middle and long distance races, while South Africa have a contingent of strong medal candidates in the 200m, 400m and 800m races for both the men and women.
While the field events have not always been a stronghold for competing African nations, that could change this year, as a selection of excellent African athletes take part in the javelin, discus and other events with serious medal hopes. Sunette Viljoen of South Africa and Kenya’s African record holder Julius Yego are contenders for the women’s and men’s javelin.
Dominated mainly by South Africa, but with many swimmers capable of winning a medal in the water, aquatics will no doubt contribute to the African medal haul at Rio 2016. Swimmers such as Cameron Van der Burgh and Chad Le Clos will be competing against the best in the world for a place on the podium.
Rugby sevens is included in the Olympics for the first time this year, and the South African and Kenyan teams have qualified to take part. Both of those teams will feel confident that they can fight for a medal at the games, with the South Africans in particular looking for gold as the second seeds in the competition after Fiji.
The men’s and women’s marathons will be events worth keeping an eye on for African fans, as the Kenyan, Ugandan and Ethiopian athletes look to cover themselves in glory. In 2012 Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda won the men’s marathon, while Ethiopia’s Tiki Gelana won for the women, and African athletes will look to replicate those achievements.
Nigeria, South Africa and Algeria are the three African teams that will travel to Rio to represent Africa in the men’s Olympic football tournament, while the two women’s teams qualified for the games are South Africa and Zimbabwe. The Nigerian team is hoping to replicate former glories in the tournament, such as 1996’s gold medal winning run.
The two sports could see Team SA make a significant impact, with a number of South African rowing teams qualified for the Olympics, and a gold medal at London 2012 as motivation. In canoeing South Africa can count on Brigitte Hartley as a potential medallist in the women’s 500m sprint canoeing event, having won the bronze in the same event at London 2012.
Golf is one of the new Olympic sports, and South Africa might have some impact on the course at Rio 2016. Unfortunately top SA golfers Branden Grace, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen have withdrawn, but the likes of Jaco Van Zyl may still be in with a chance to shine in Brazil.