Kenya, Ethiopia shine for Africa – By Phumza Macanda, BEIJING (Reuters)

August 25th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

Africans again dominated distance running at the Beijing Olympic Games thanks to Kenya and Ethiopia, but athletes pleaded for more funding for their poor states.

African athletes won 12 gold, 14 silver and 13 bronze medals in Beijing, a slight improvement on their effort in Athens where they picked up nine gold, 13 silver and 13 bronze medals.

Kenya and Ethiopia collected 21 medals between them with officials saying hardships on the continent had helped athletes to thrive in long distance running.

Kenya got five gold medals, five silvers and four bronze despite disruptions in the run-up to Beijing which included the pullout of marathon runner Robert Cheruiyot due to injury while three-times London marathon winner Martin Lel’s training was affected by flu.

Sammy Wanjiru made up for it by winning the first Olympic marathon for Kenya.

“Our athletes have to walk long distances from a very young age to go to school unlike those in developed countries, so they just get used to it quite early,” Kenya’s assistant coach Peter Mathu told Reuters.

Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba and Kenenisa Bekele both won gold in the 10,000 and 5,000 metres, the first time the double has been achieved since the 1980 Games.

Africa was however still hampered by lack of funds for sports development and was boosted by athletes based abroad in highly competitive sports.

Zimbabwe’s swimmer Kirsty Coventry, who trains in the United States, bagged four medals for her troubled nation and French-based kayaker Benjamin Boukpeti won Togo’s first ever medal when he took bronze.

U.S.-based Blessing Okagbare, who took bronze in long jump for Nigeria, said she probably would never have qualified for the Olympics if she was still in Nigeria.

Cameroon’s Francoise Mbango Etone made a plea for funding after she retained her gold medal in triple jump.

“It’s not the sponsorship that motivates me, but I want to leave my name in the world … I wonder if I could find a sponsor who could help me and recognize I’m a two-time Olympic champion,” she said.

African born-athletes that compete for other countries, such as Nigerian Francis Obikwelu who runs for Portugal said leaving Africa was the best decision and the continent could continue losing talent if earning a living remained difficult.

(Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

  1. eliyas
    | #1

    The Lion kenenisa contributes the best thing for Ethiopia than the ignorant Hailesilassie lion of judah the imnegede yihuda siyume igzabiher wenegeste negest ba ba ba one keneni can reperesent and make a proud in one single day.

    we love you keneni keenyaaaaaaaa!!

  2. Nigussie
    | #2

    Kenenisa and Tirunesh really shine in Beijing. Beijing also shows us where Ethiopian athletics federation is. 4 Gold by 2 athletes and in 2 fields is never enough to Ethiopia. We all know as there are thousands of Keninisa and Tirunesh but the dirty and bureaucratic experience of the federation force them to flee to the foreigners house. If the federation continues this way I am sure we will loss the next heroes. Abiye and other Ethiopian who already flew are enough to learn the lessons. The Federation please wake up and try to keep the honor.

  3. atuba dolla
    | #3

    First and foremost, cngradulations all Ethiopians, and we wish you all the best in the years to come, as victory has been our goal in many areas including removing the woyanae regime.

    As with educated people and very important capable people or citizens have been deliberately and forcefully left their beloved country owing to the current brutal regime thereby, leaving the country void of golden men and women, today and in the future, Ethiopia will definitely lose men and women of high athletics standard. Isn’t it sad?

    The Woayanae controlled, the Ethiopians sport or athletics federation has been the main cause of creating barrier and discomfort on the future athletics aspiration of young men and women leading to leaving the country for a foreign country to seek for a better treatment, respect, opportunity and progress.

    Our citizens deserve unhindered opportunity.

  4. amina
    | #4

    atuba dolla
    ante tubo aff. you better go back to school.
    dedeb mehayem.

  5. kuku
    | #5

    Haile Gebresellase should never ever be insulted by anyone.
    Kil ras yehone sew new Haile lay afun yemikefit. Haile is Ethiopia’s pride, our hero, a man who changed the imgages of Ethiopia in good terms.
    Please guys, think as many times as possible before you write.
    I am really tired of such loosers, “menged teragi”, so called diasporas. If you had had a human mind that thinks properly, you couldn’t have written like that.

    God bless good sons and dauthors of Ethiopia.

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