Africans chase glory in Birmingham

 The marathon races will start off Africa’s scramble for medals at the XXII Common­wealth Games in Birmingham.

The Club Games start with the opening ceremony later Thursday but Africa’s first big chance to win a medal will be in the ultimate distance for both men and women on Saturday morning.

Reigning champion Helaria Johannes will defend her marathon title in the women’s race. The 41 year old Namibian triumphed in Australia four years ago before winning bronze at the 2019 World Championships in Doha.

She will contend with a Kenyan trio of Maureen Chepkemoi, Stella Barsosio and Margaret Wangare as they look to win Kenya’s third marathon gold in the history of the games.

Australia’s Michael Shelley, who won the marathon in the last two editions, retired in 2019 which means that there will be a new winner in the men’s race.

Eliud Kipchoge’s training part­ner Jonathan Korir will lead the Kenyan contingent which is seek­ing a third Kenyan win in the race in the history of the games. The 35 year old has gone under 2:05 in his last two marathons. Philemon Kacheran and Eric Kiptanui also be in action.

Africa will certainly enjoy more success in the sprints. Nigeria’s freshly minted world champion Tobi Amusan will be favourite to defend the title she won in Gold Coast four years ago when she lines up in the women’s 100m Hurdles.

The 25 year old was in a class of her own in Oregon setting a new world record of 12.12s and should coast to another title to add the cherry on top of the cake of what has been a simply outstanding sea­son for the Nigerian superstar.

Emerging track star Favour Ofili will be a good bet for a medal in either the 100 or 200m as she looks to emulate Blessing Okagbare who won the 100/200m double in Glasgow back in 2014.

The 19 year old set a new 100m PB of 10.93 as well as a new 200m mark of 21.96 and will hope to build up on her performance in Oregon where she reached the semifinals.

The Nigerian 4x100m relay team set a new African record in Oregon last week clocking 42.22s to shatter a 30 year old record and the quartet will be in with a shout for a medal in Birmingham.

Ghana’s 4x100m relay team also made the final in Oregon and they will be favourites for a podium finish.

Reigning Commonwealth 100m champion Akani Simbine has peak­ed at the right time reaching the final at the World Championships a week ago and the South Afri­can will be the man to beat in the 100m. He will be up against Afri­can champion Ferdinand Omanyala who pipped him to the continental crown by the thickness of a vest.

Botswana’s new sensation Bayapo Ndori will look succeed countryman Isaac Makwala as the new king of the 4090m race. The 23 year old set a new personal best 44.87s in Oregon and will be favourite for gold while Zambia’s Muzala Samukonga will be a dark horse in the one lap race.

Kenya’s Olympic and World 800m champion Emmanuel Korir will drop to the 400m race as he aims to win another medal.

Wycliffe Kinyamal will defend the 800m crown that he won in Australia four years ago. Watch out for World under 20 champion Emmanuel Wanyonyi. 2018 silver medallist Timothy Cheruiyot will look to upgrade to gold in the mile race while Abel Kipsang will look to bounce back after a lacklustre race in Oregon.

Kenya will hope to regain some glory in the women’s 3000m stee­plechase after they lost to Jamaica’s Aisha Praut-Leer four years ago. Celliphine Chespol, who took silver in Gold Coast, will be back as she looks to upgrade to gold.

Uganda has won every 10,000m men’s race since 2006 and the East African nation will again be favou­rites to retain the title if Joshua Cheptegei mounts a successful defence of the gold medal he won four years ago.

In the field events, Nigeria’s Ese Brume will be odds on favourite to retain her Commonwealth game title in women’s long jump. The 26 year old won silver at the World Championships last week to add onto the Olympic bronze medal from Tokyo 2020. –SuperSport

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