Exactly one month since the Olympic games in Rio – Michael Gyekye reflects on some of the most brilliant moments for Africa at the games – both the glories and controversies. Perhaps these were the ten most remarkable African moments at Rio 2016:
Ethiopian athlete Feyisa Lilesa protests: The Olympic Games attracts a tsunami of media following which renders it a powerful campaign platform for athletes to exploit. Ethiopian athlete Feyisa Lilesa seized this special opportunity to register a controversial political protest expressing solidarity with his Oromo ethnic group back home, as after clinching silver.
Nigeria’s men’s national football team gain bronze: Nigeria is perhaps as good at generating controversies as they are at youth football. Despite touching down in Brazil hours before their opening game, an incident which triggered widespread tongue-lashing of their Olympic team administrators back home, the Nigerian U-23 whipped their maiden opponents and advanced to the semis of the men’s football competition. The team remarkably groped to a third-place finish amid player grievances over unpaid bonuses.
Self-taught Kenyan javelin thrower wins silver: Kenyan Julius Yego taught himself how to throw javelin on Youtube and determinedly developed this interest. He is now an Olympian and won silver at Rio. He showed Africans a new way to circumvent the continent’s immense deficits in talent development resources to develop their skills and ultimately show the world what they’ve got!
Casta Semenya wins gold: The 800m South African runner lifted aloft the flags of both her country and the pride of Africa by winning gold in the women’s 800m race as expected. Her success made her the first Black South African woman to win gold at the Olympics.
Cheick Sallah Cisse earns Ivory Coast first Olympic Gold Medal: Unlike their East African counterparts, West African countries are notably not prolific at the Olympics. A piece of evidence is how long it has taken this rather powerful African soccer giant to clinch gold at the Olympics. Their redeeming hero was 22-year old Cheick Sallah Cisse, whose heroic success in the men’s Taekwando 80kg division won his country its first Olympic gold medal. The occasion was a big moment of pride for Africa.
South African Wayne van Dyck shatters Michael Jordan’s 17-year old record: The 24-year old 400m runner from South Africa established a new world record in men’s 400m by clocking 43.03 seconds, which was an improvement of .15 of a second on the legend Michael Jordan’s 17-year-old record in the division.
Ethiopian athlete smashes women’s 10,000m record: Ethiopian Almaz Ayana, 24, made history by winning gold in the women’s 10,000m race and famously setting a new world record of 29 minutes and 17.45 seconds in the process.
Kenyan David Rudisha wins back-to-back gold in men’s 800m: Can you imagine his name Rudisha means bring it back in Swahili? And surely he returned home with gold from the men’s 800m race from the second successive Olympics, becoming the first Olympian to achieve that feat since New Zealand’s Peter Snell in 1964.
Zambian judoka Mathews Punza pulls upset: Ranked 112th in the world, Mathews Punza of Zambia, 25, shocked all by defeating 6th ranked Golan Pollack of Israel by 100-0 in just about two minutes. Mathew would be knocked out at the last 16 stage but that success could be hardly easily forgotten.
West African teenage swimmers make Olympics debut: Perhaps no better inspiration and role models for young Africans could have been discovered through this Olympics than young West African swimmers and Olympic debutants Abeiku Gyekye Jackson and Kaya Forson of Ghana, and Bunturrabie Jalloh of Sierra Leone. They defied all odds to make their first appearance at the Olympics as swimmers at the ages of 14, 16 and 18 respectively. Their awesome feat helped cast a different portrait of the African teenager – not the out-of-school and hopeless but the talented and disciplined, poised to take on the world.
What other African moment did you find remarkable at Rio 2016?
Michael Gyekye (04/09/2016)