The year 2016 has provided African sports fans with numerous moments to be proud of, with many African Sporting highlights that stand out after reflecting on the year that was.
Sport can always be relied upon to lift the spirits of fans, and give everyone something to celebrate, even during difficult times. That is the beauty of sport.
From Olympic exploits to pioneering moments in various sports, Africa can look back on a positive year from many aspects.
We gathered 15 African sporting highlights to savour from the year 2016.
The 2016 New York City men’s marathon was won by 20-year-old Ghirmay Ghebreslassie from Eritrea in a time of 2:07:51, adding his name to the record books as the youngest ever winner. Second place belonged to Kenya’s Lucas Rotich (2:08:53), while Somali-born American Abdi Abdirahman completed the trio of African-born runners to dominate this year’s race (2:11:23).
Mary Keitany of Kenyan stormed to her third consecutive New York City Marathon victory in November, pulling off a stunning victory in a time of 2:24:26. The 34-year-old is the first woman to win three New York City marathons in a row since Grete Waitz won five from 1982 to 1986.
Gabon striker and Borussia Dortmund sensation Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was named the African Player of the Year for 2o15 by CAF in January 2016, receiving recognition for his prolific scoring during the course of the year for both club and country. He beat Andre Ayew and Yaya Toure to the award.
Kenyan-born Team Sky rider Chris Froome won the Tour de France title for a third time in July when he crossed the finish line of the 21-stage race in Paris. Froome became the first man to defend the Tour de France title in 20 years, having raced to victory in 2015. He also won the three-week race in 2013.
Two Africans made the shortlist for the Ballon d’Or award for 2017, which recognises the best soccer player in the world. Algerian Riyad Mahrez and Gabon’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were among the 30 nominees. Africans have not typically done well in the Player of the Year stakes, particularly in recent times, with the last African to win the prize being Liberia’s George Weah in 1995.
The South African ultra-marathon team won gold at the IAU 100km World Championships in Los Alcazares, Spain in November. As the top three athletes from a country to finish count towards the team event, South Africa managed to achieve the gold ahead of Japan and the United States, who were second and third respectively.
South Africa’s Seabelo Senatla was named World Rugby’s men’s Sevens Player of the Year at World Rugby’s awards in London in November. The 23-year-old flyer scored 66 tries in 10 events in the 2015-16 series – the second-highest in the 17-year history of the series, adding a further four at the Rio Olympic Games.
Many African sporting highlights came from Rio 2016, where Africans won 45 medals, making it the continent’s most successful Games. Eleven African nations won medals, with Kenya earning 13 medals (six gold, six silver and 1 bronze) for their best ever performance, while South Africa equalled their record of 10 medals (two gold, six silver, two bronze).
South African Wayde Van Niekerk stole the Olympic spotlight with a phenomenal men’s 400m victory at Rio 2016, setting a new world record in the event and earning his country’s first Olympic gold medal at the competition. The 24-year-old broke the 17-year record held by American Michael Johnson with a time of 43.03 seconds in the one-lap race.
Kenyan Olympic champion and world record holder David Rudisha successfully defended his Olympic men’s 800m crown at the Games in Rio. Rudisha powered through the two laps, putting in a fantastic final 300m to secure the win in a time of one minute 42.15 seconds.
Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana stunned the world with an incredible women’s 10,000m victory in a world record time of 29:17.45 at Rio 2016, dominating the long-distance race and defeating favoured compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba, who finished third. As far as African sporting highlights go, this one certainly stood out.
Conseslus Kipruto won the men’s 3,000m steeplechase gold medal with an Olympic record time of 8:03.28 at Rio 2016 to extend Kenya’s incredible winning streak in the event. He defeated American Evan Jager and Frenchman Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad in second and third respectively.
Making up for her second-place finish in the women’s 10,000m race at Rio 2016, Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot ensured her place in history with an Olympic record breaking victory in the 5,000m in a time of 14:26.17.
In October South Africa became the first team to whitewash Australia 5-0 in a one-day international cricket series. The Proteas dominated the 2015 Cricket World Cup champions throughout the series that was played in various South African cities.
Another of the African sporting highlights came when Uganda’s national soccer team, the Cranes, defeated Comoro Islands by a solitary goal in AFCON qualifying in September to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in 39-years, sending the home crowd into delirium.