Home » 23rd African Athletics Championship gets underway in Douala

23rd African Athletics Championship gets underway in Douala

by Lesley Ngwa
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  • The 23rd African Athletics Championship commenced in Douala, Cameroon, with athletes from over 49 countries participating.
  • Nigeria’s Chukwuebuka Enekwechi secured the country’s first gold medal in the men’s shotput, setting a new record
  • Despite promising performances, athletes expressed dissatisfaction with organizational issues, including delays and sound system problems

The 23rd edition of the African Athletics Championship commenced on June 21 at the Japoma sports complex in Douala, Cameroon. This biennial event marks the first time Cameroon has hosted the championship since 1966.

The official launch took place with notable dignitaries in attendance, including the Minister of Sports, Narcisse Mouelle Kombi, and world Athletics president Sebastian Coe

The opening events began at 9:00 AM, starting with long jump exercises. Kenya took the lead, followed by Algeria and South Africa. After the long jump, athletes participated in shot put exercises.

Over 49 countries confirmed their participation, out of the initial 54 countries announced. In the women’s 100m, Cameroon’s Herverge Kole Etame secured her place in the semi-finals, while Alobwede Eseme Emmanuel achieved the same feat in the men’s category.

Day one yielded definitive results, with Nigeria’s 31-year-old Chukwuebuka Enekwechi winning the men’s shot put event. His throw of 21.20m set a new record and earned Nigeria its first gold medal in the ongoing African Athletics Championships. Enekwechi now holds his third consecutive African Championship title, having previously won in Nigeria and Mauritius. Notably, he recently clinched his fourth consecutive national title in Benin City.

Despite the promising start, several athletes expressed dissatisfaction with the organization. Letsile Tebogo, a silver medalist at the 2023 world championship from Botswana, criticized the lack of punctuality. He threatened to withdraw from the finals unless measures were taken to prioritize athletes’ health.

Tebogo stated, “There’s a lot of disorganized stuff. Maybe I won’t run; maybe I will. Time is money in athletics. You can’t warm up, wait for an hour, and then be called to run. I’m focused on the Olympics, not the African Games.”

He added, “I’ll participate in the semi-finals, but if the same delays occur, I’ll reconsider due to health concerns.”

Abdoul Razack Ismael Kone from Cote D’Ivoire also faced challenges. Despite running on track five in the men’s 100m, he couldn’t hear the takeoff gun. Kone emphasized the need for better sound management during such a significant competition.

He explained :
“I am happy with what I did but they have to do better with the gun, this is a big competition, they have to do better with the gun, I couldn’t hear anything. It has an impact on my performance , I should have won I didn’t hear the gun.”

Other athletes echoed their discontent on social media. Ivorian sprinter Marie Josée Talou expressed disappointment, highlighting transportation issues and unequal treatment among teams. She urged organizers to improve and recognize the caliber of top athletes participating in the championship.

Cameroon faces criticism for its organizational shortcomings. The japoma stadium was almost empty in the opening of one of Africa’s biggest sporting competition. The communication from the Cameroon athletics federation concerning this competition has been poor.

Athletes are hoping for positive changes as the championship progresses.

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