Athletics championships 'can be showcase' for Mauritius

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Mauritius prepares to welcome Africa's top athletes
Dates: 8-12 June Venue: Cote d'Or Stadium, Mauritius Session times (GMT, approx): 0430-0930 & 1100-1400

Mauritius hopes hosting the African Athletics Championships for the third time will shine a light on the country's ability to successfully organize major sports events.

A total of 500 athletes from 41 countries will be in action at the 22nd edition of the Championships, which start on Wednesday and finish on Sunday.

This will only be the second track and field event to be held on the new class-one certified track at the Cote d'Or Stadium.

"Hosting this continental event is very important for the country," said Giandev Moteea, chairman of the local organizing committee.

"It gives us an opportunity to showcase the world-class facilities we continue to invest in. Our aim is to exhibit Mauritius as a sporting destination."

Mauritius has hosted the Championships twice before; in 1992 at the Anjalay Stadium and in 2006 at the Germain Comarmond Stadium.

"The Cote d'Or sports complex is ranked among the top five sports stadiums in Africa. It's the perfect host after a four-year break," Moteea added.

However, with the continental showpiece falling during a busy season which includes the World Championships and Commonwealth Games, many top African athletes will not be in Mauritius.

None of the continent's reigning world or Olympic champions have confirmed their participation, but the event is still expected to serve up excitement.

Omanyala leading pack and embracing attention

Kenyan sprinter Ferdinand OmanyalaKenyan sprinter Ferdinand Omanyala put on a show for the home crowd at the Kip Keino Classic in Nairobi last month

Africa's fastest man Ferdinard Omanyala will make his African Championships debut having clocked this year's world-leading time, beating Olympic silver medallist Fred Kerley in 9.85 seconds at the Kip Keino Classic last month.

The Kenyan has enjoyed immense success since qualifying for the Olympic final in Tokyo last year, running under 10 seconds five times since last August, and has not lost a 100m race this season.

"I am the African record holder but ironically I don't have the title so that's what I am going for," the 26-year-old said.

"I love that I am coming to the Championships with all eyes on me. It's good pressure and something that gives me a lot of courage and motivation to perform because I need to live up to the standards.

"You can be sure I am going to give Africa a show."

Omanyala will also compete in the 200m and 4x100m relay, and is eyeing a personal clean sweep.

"I am hoping to make it three gold medals," he said.

"I am coming into Mauritius with all that in mind and although there is so much competition, I am not looking at any competitor. It's all about me and the gold medal."

Ferdinand Omanyala - Africa's fastest man

Reigning African champion and former continental record holder Akani Simbine has been entered to run in the 100m and the 4x100m relay, and the South African comes to the Championships with a season-best time of 10.06.

Botswana's Lestsile Tebogo is expected to turn up the heat as the World Under-20 champion has already recorded a sub-10 second performance.

He comes into the competition with a personal best of 9.96s, and is also entered to run the 200m race.

The men's sprints will miss the presence of three-time African champion Isaac Makwala, who will instead focus on preparations for the World Championships and Commonwealth Games.

The Namibia's pair of Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi breathed fresh air into the women's sprints last year, yet both will be missing the Championships through injury.

Another top African sprinter, Favor Ofili of Nigeria, will skip the continental showpiece because of NCAA commitments but compatriot Tobi Amusan will defend her 100m hurdles title.

Over longer distance, Caster Semenya will be returning to the Championships - although the reigning African 800m champion has been forced to step up to 5000m.

World Athletics' DSD rules regarding testosterone levels have locked the two-time Olympic gold medallist, 31, out of the two-lap race.

However, Prudence Sekgodiso is seen in South Africa as the successor to Semenya, and the 20-year-old is already showing what she can do.

Sekgodiso set a new personal best time at the Kip Keino Classic, running one minute 58.4 seconds, and will come in just days after running another sub two-minute time at the Rabat Diamond League on Sunday.

Abdelrahman and Yego set for javelin duel

Kenya's Julius Yego (left) and Egypt'sIhab Abdelrahman beat javelin-throwing rival Julius Yego at the Kip Keino Classic last month

The field events will see the highest number of reigning champions returning, with three Nigerians among those heading to the island to defend their crowns.

Continental long jump record holder Ese Brume will be seeking her fourth African title after bagging an Olympic bronze medal last year, while Chioma Onyekwere (discus) and Chukwuebuka Enekwechi (shot put) will be on title-defence missions.

The javelin will reunite two men who have tasted success on both the continental and global stage but are now hoping to turn around poor runs of results.

Three-time African champion Julius Yego of Kenya comes up against Egypt's Ihab Abdelrahman, the winner of the title in 2010 who had arm surgery last November.

"I hope to be back like last time and throw far," the 33-year-old Egyptian said.

"I hope me and my brother Yego win in Africa and win big at the World Championships in Eugene as well."

Yego has won the past three African titles and finished one place ahead of Abdelrahman when claiming the gold at the 2015 World Championships.

This season the Egyptian gained some revenge by beating Yego into second at the Kip Keino Classic, and the Kenyan has struggled somewhat since sustaining an injury at the 2019 World Championships in Doha.

"I have not competed for a really long period," Yego, 33, said.

"Javelin is a technical event, so I lost some technique a bit, but I am picking up. I am really looking forward to competing again at the African Championships and maybe I can qualify for the World Championships."

Elsewhere Hugues Fabrice Zango, reigning African triple jump champion, will hope to continue flying his country's flag high after becoming the first athlete from Burkina Faso to win an Olympic medal, taking bronze in Tokyo last year.

The Cote d'Or Stadium in MauritiusThe Cote d'Or Stadium will be the venue for the Championships
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