Tag Archives: African Championships

Cote d’ Ivoire – a Rising Force in African Sprints

30 Oct

In the sporting world, Cote d’ Ivoire is well known as a power house in African football , and globally for the production of stars such as Didier Drogba, the Toure brothers (Kolo and Yaya), and a host of other big names.

About a decade ago, suggesting that the West African country would produce a female double sprint Silver medallist at the World Championships, and 2014 African champion in the men’s 100m and 200m, would have sounded a bit far-fetched.

Cote d’ Ivoire was first put on the world athletics stage in 1984, when Gabriel Tiacoh (RIP) won the 400m silver medal at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, before making the final at the 1987 World Championships in Rome.
However, the recent strides being recorded by Ivorian sprinters both continentally and internationally are now making the sort of impression that would make Tiacoh proud.

 Gabriel Tiacoh won silver in the men's 400m at the 1984 Olympics, behind USA's Alonzo Babers. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia).

Gabriel Tiacoh won silver in the men’s 400m at the 1984 Olympics, behind USA’s Alonzo Babers.

After the civil war in their country, the gradual but steady emergence of Cote d’Ivoire in world sprints started at the 2009 World Championships where Ben Youssef Meite competed in the first round in the 100m where he posted a time of 10.41s.

He thereafter denied Nigeria a fourth consecutive victory in the men’s 100m in Africa, as he dominated the event at the 2010 African Championships in a time of 10.08s, before taking silver in the 200m in 20.39s. African record holder in the 100m, Olusoji Fasuba, won the event at the 2004, 2006 and 2008 editions of the championship, which was the last time Nigeria struck Gold at the continental championship.

Ben Youssef Meite competed alongside USA’s Justin Gatlin in the men's 100m semi-final at the London 2012 Olympic Games.  (Photo Credit: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters).

Ben Youssef Meite competed alongside USA’s Justin Gatlin in the men’s 100m semi-final at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
(Photo Credit: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters).

In 2012 in Porto Novo, Meite won the Gold medal in the 200m before a semi-final place finish in the 100m at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. It should be noted that, the last time Nigeria won the men’s 200m at the African Championships was in 2006 when Uche Emedolu stormed to the title. Since then, Ivorian sprinters seem to have taken over, sounding a warning that they’re the ones to beat at the African Championships in the sprints.

Another Ivoirian, Hua Wilfried Koffi took over the baton from Meite at the 2014 African Championships in Marrakech. He surprisingly won the sprints double with a Personal Best (PB)/ National Record (NR) of 10.05s in the 100m and 20.25s in the 200m, putting his name in history as the third man to achieve this feat in the Championship history. What is most surprising in his feat is that he trains alone in China, while his coach is in Germany, and their only means of communication on his training program is via email or text messages.

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While Meite and Koffi may have stamped their country’s name in African men’s sprint history, Murielle Ahouré has done it for the females internationally. In fact, she is the most celebrated sportsperson their nation has produced in a decade after their football national team and is nicknamed the ‘female Drogba’ in her country.

Ahouré sprang unto the international scene in March 2012, where she came 2nd (7.04s) in the 60m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships. She became her country’s first medalist at an IAAF World Championships of any age or competition. She then went on to become the sixth African sprinter under 11s when she ran a 10.99s, before making the 100m and 200m final at the 2012 Olympic Games, finishing 7th and 6th respectively.

Murielle Ahoure won Silver in the 60m at the 2012 World Indoors behind Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown (C), while Tianna Madison of Great Britain (R) took bronze. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Murielle Ahoure won Silver in the 60m at the 2012 World Indoors behind Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown (C), while Tianna Madison of Great Britain (R) took bronze.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Murielle Ahoure celebrates her 2013 World Championships Silver medal along with 100m champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and bronze medallist, Carmelita Jeter of the US.  (Photo Credit: Getty Images).

Murielle Ahoure celebrates her 2013 World Championships Silver medal along with 100m champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and bronze medallist, Carmelita Jeter.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images).

At the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Ahouré made history by becoming the first female African sprinter to win a medal in the 100m when she snatched the Silver in 10.93s, before making it double Silver in the 200m in 22.32s. Her achievement in Moscow was undoubtedly a highlight of the 2013 World Championships, especially considering that she won Cote d’Ivoire’s first medals ever in the event! She won the attention of the world, the admiration of Africans, and the adulation of Ivoirians.

The emergence of Cote d’Ivoire now poses a threat to traditional African power house, Nigeria, which has produced the continent’s best sprinters over the past few decades, such as Olapade Adeniken, The Ezinwa brothers, Mary Onyali-Omagbemi Olusoji Fasuba, Deji Aliu, Blessing Okagbare and many other notable athletes.

For instance, at the just concluded African Championships, Nigeria had three finalists in the women’s 100m final, yet only Okagbare made it to the podium with a GOLD medal, while Ahouré and Marie-Josée Ta Lou (another emerging Ivoirian star) shared the remaining spoils. It was the same story in the 200m as the Ivoirian duo dominated once more, while Dominique Duncan emerged the surprise bronze medallist for Nigeria.

Okagbare was Nigeria’s sole medallist in the women's 100m final, while the Ivorian duo of Murielle Ahouré and Marie J Ta Lou won silver and bronze respectively.

Okagbare was Nigeria’s sole medallist in the women’s 100m final, while the Ivorian duo of Murielle Ahouré and Marie J Ta Lou won silver and bronze respectively.

Men's double sprint champion, Hua Wilfried Koffi won gold ahead of the Nigerian pair of Mark Jelks and Monzavous Edwards.

Men’s double sprint champion, Hua Wilfried Koffi won gold ahead of the Nigerian pair of Mark Jelks and Monzavous Edwards.

In the men’s event, Koffi was the lone Ivoirian but he beat three Nigerians (Mark Jelks, Monzavous Edward and Ogho-Oghene Egwero) to the 100m title, and repeated the same feat in the 200m where Nigeria’s sole finalist, Divine Oduduru placed sixth.

The steady rise of the Ivoirians should serve as a note of warning to Nigeria, which is fast losing her global relevance as a force to contend with in the sprints! Meite, Ahouré and Koffi have set the pace for their country; it’s just a matter of time before more Ivorian youths follow in their steps.

(Photo Credit: Getty Images).

(Photo Credit: Getty Images).

(Photo Credit: Christopher Lee/Getty Images).

(Photo Credit: Christopher Lee/Getty Images).

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(Photo Credit: Getty Images).

(Photo Credit: Getty Images).

Hua Wilfried Koffi emerged double sprint champion at the 2014 African Championships in Marrakech. He won the 200m ahead of Isaac Makwala of Botswana (R) and Kenya's Carvin Nkata (L).

(Photo Credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images).

(Photo Credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images).

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with ESE BRUME, Nigerian, African & Commonwealth Long Jump CHAMPION!

8 Sep

ESE BRUME, recently crowned Nigerian, African & Commonwealth Long Jump Champion, speaks EXCLUSIVELY to MAKING OF CHAMPIONS on her recent successes and her career so far! We caught up with her in Morocco just after she won the African Crown and qualified to represent Team Africa at the upcoming IAAF Continental Cup!

First of all congratulations! How do you feel about your victories, firstly at the Commonwealth Games and now at the African Championships?

Thank you. I feel good. I’m happy that at least I have made my country and family proud.

Was it expected? Were you expecting to win?

Yes, sure. I was expecting it.

How did you get started in athletics?

I started in secondary school. I had to represent Delta at the National School Sports Festival (NSSF). That was in 2008 though I wasn’t as serious. I came second in the long jump. I stopped for a while but then my present coach, Mr. Kayode Yaya had to take me from my parents to Benin where he started training me.

So where in Delta are you from?

Ughelli South.

So what was it like leaving your family and moving to Benin. Was it hard?

Not really, because I used to visit home frequently, every weekend.

How many years have you been training in Benin now?

For two and a half years.

You won the last National Sports Festival in 2012. What was your distance then? How did it feel to win your first big title?

Good! I was like, ‘So I can actually make it’. I was surprised.

So was that the moment you knew that you could actually make it as an athlete?

Yes. That and the National Trials last year where I came second behind Blessing Okagbare with a jump of 6.53m.

What is your Personal Best?

That is 6.68m which I did at the National Trials this year. I won the title.

What happened at the World Junior Championships, when you were only able to record one valid jump of 5.18m and could not reach the final? Were you disappointed?

Actually I didn’t get my run up so it was just a bad day. I wasn’t disappointed, I just felt that maybe God was preparing me for something bigger.

When you got to the Commonwealth Games, where you thinking ‘I’ve got something to prove’, to put that performance behind you and do something better?

Yes. I told myself that I had to tell the federation and everyone that it was about my run up. I wanted to prove everyone wrong, because everyone was like ‘What was wrong with me?’ I was the world leader and all of a sudden I came last. I had to turn to God and put Him first and He did it.

At the Commonwealth Games you qualified for the final in 12th position. At that point were you thinking that you could still win the gold medal?

Yes! All I was thinking at that moment was for me to qualify because I knew that once I qualified, I would be left with six jumps.

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So which athletes inspire you? Who do you look up to?

Blessing Okagbare. She is good, she’s got good character and she’s doing fine. She’s hardworking; she sprints and jumps well. I also want to sprint like her.

So you would like to follow her footsteps and switch from long jump to the sprints?

Yes. Sometimes she talks to me and tutors me. I just want to be like her.

You sprinted in the Nigerian Golden League this season, where you ran 11.8 seconds. How did that feel, going out there to sprint?

It felt cool, but I’m not that fast. I have to work harder at it.

So you train during the week and then go home at weekends?

I don’t go home like that again. That was then.

So what about your education? What is the plan for you? Are you looking to go to University in Nigeria or abroad? What’s the plan?

I have not decided yet.

If you get a good school and scholarship abroad, will you follow in Blessing’s footsteps and go?

I can’t say for now. I’m still thinking about it.

Apart from Blessing, are there any other sports personalities that you like? 

I like Allyson Felix. I love the way she sprints. She’s really good and very graceful.

What do you do in your spare time? Do you enjoy watching movies, listening to music or anything else? 

I’m not a movie freak, though I like Korean movies. I like music but I can’t sing. I love blues. I love Celine Dion and Toni Braxton. I like Mariah Carey.

But these are old school. Don’t you like any more current artists, maybe some hip-hop or rap?

The only rap artiste I like is Eminem.

What kind of music do you listen to when you are training?

It’s not allowed in my gym.

For how long do you train daily?

It depends on the training programme. Sometimes three hours, other times four, but the maximum is four hours. We train twice a day, like two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening.

How do you spend the rest of your day?

Sometimes I watch movies or read novels or just visit my team mates but not frequently. It’s a rare occurrence. I like Shakespeare.

Hope not Mills & Boons?

(Laughter)

How many days do you train in a week?

Five days. We don’t train during weekends so that we have time to recover.

 Your parents must be very proud of you. How did they allow your coach to take you to Benin to go and train?

They were very supportive and they are part of my inspiration. They encouraged me from an early age.

What do your parents do?

My mother is a teacher and my father is a teacher.

They always believed that you will be a star? 

Right from when I was in secondary school, even when I was in primary school though I wasn’t among the best then. But when I was in secondary school I was doing well so they pushed me in that direction.

What will you say about Nigerian parents who would not want their children to do sports?

It’s good for them to give their kids the opportunity if they have the talent.

So what’s next for you now since you’ve won almost everything? You are National Champion, Commonwealth Champion, African Champion?

I’m looking forward to doing better at the IAAF Continental Cup where I will represent the continent and then after that, the National Sports Festival.

What are your hopes regarding the Olympics, World Championships. You’ve not been to either so what are your hopes for representing Nigeria at the highest level?

My dream is to become the world’s best so I know that for the World Championships, I will be on the medals table because I should be doing much better before then. If not the GOLD, I will be on the medals table.

Have you talked to your coach about sprinting? Is that in your plan for the next few years?

It’s for next season. My coach says I will start then.

Well, we wish you the best of luck and will look out for you at the World Championships and Olympics in the Long Jump, and maybe soon in the sprints!

Thank you.

The IAAF Continental Cup will be taking place in Marrakech, Morocco THIS WEEKEND (Sept 13th & 14th), and Ese Brume will be representing Team Africa in the women’s Long Jump on Sunday Sept 14th from 7.40pm.

Day 1 is LIVE on SuperSport 2 from 6.20-10.10pm. Day 2 is LIVE on SuperSport 6 from 5.20-9.10pm!

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Brume adds African Long Jump Title to Commonwealth Crown, Amadi takes Silver!

13 Aug

It was another 1-2 for Nigeria in the women’s long jump event as Ese Brume added the African crown to her list of titles with a jump of 6.50m, which was just 6cm shy of her golden jump at the Commowealth Games in Glasgow, while team mate and Nigeria’s No.2, Chinazom Amadi made a leap of 6.40m to finish in second position at the ongoing African Senior Athletics Championships in Marrakech. Earlier in the day, Nigeria recorded a top two finish in the women’s discus where Chinwe Okoro and Nwanneka Okwelogu dominated the event.

This latest addition is the fifth title the Delta State athlete has to her name at the moment, including the National Sports Festival crown (which brought her to limelight two years ago), the national title (which she won at the Nigerian Trials in June), African Juniors title (which she won in Mauritius last year), Commonwealth GOLD (in Glasgow earlier this month) and now the African GOLD Medallist! She is also the African junior record holder in the event!

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Chinazom Amadi also demonstrated extreme composure in pulling out a Season’s Best jump of 6.40m after initially going out to 6.17m, which would have seen her run out of the medals! She is a seasoned African Championships performer, having won Silver in Ethiopia in 2008 and Bronze in 2006 in Mauritius with jumps of 6.31m and 6.23m respectively! Her PB of 6.60m was set at the National Trials in Calabar in 2012.

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 Brume has demonstrated by this performance that her GOLD in Glasgow was no fluke, having emerged as the surprise winner in a field that comprised of more experienced jumpers including England’s Shara Proctor and a host of others. She has been consistent this season, save for the IAAF World Junior Championships where she finished at the bottom of her group in the qualifying round just a week before Glasgow. It is still difficult to pinpoint what went wrong in Oregon, although it was alleged that she arrived for the competition a day before her event, and perhaps was still exhausted by her sojourn.

Ese Brume has truly come of age – the jumping sensation has put that disappointment behind her, and has more than made up for the loss by commanding outstanding performances in subsequent events. The stage is now set for both Brume and Amadi to rub shoulders with some of the world’s best ahead of the IAAF Continental Cup slated to also hold in Marrakech next month!

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