The 2014 IAAF Continental Cup ended on a high for Team Africa despite finishing third in the final standings of the competition, which came to a close on Sunday at the Le Grande Stade in Marrakech, Morocco.
The four continents which featured in the two-day meeting were Asia-Pacific, the Americas, Europe and hosts, Africa. The Europeans led by a mile, amassing 447.5 points overall while the Americas followed in second place with 390.0 points. Africa was third with 339.0 while the Asian-Pacific team settled for fourth with a total of 257.5points.
Some of the major highlights of the event include the men and women’s 100m races which provided some excitement even in the absence of the continent’s top two female athletes in the event, Blessing Okagbare and Murielle Ahouré. Veronica Campbell-Brown was in awesome form as she blew away the rest of the field in the women’s 100m, taking the title with a time of 11.08s, after her Diamond League triumph two weeks ago in Zurich.
Team mate and world No.2, Michelle Lee-Ahye who recently returned from a brief hiatus owing to injury took second with 11.25s while European double sprint champion, Dafne Schippers placed third in 11.26s. Team Africa’s Marie-Josee Ta Lou of Cote d’Ivoire and Gloria Asumnu were fourth and sixth respectively in 11.28s and 11.37s.
The men’s 100m was an explosive race with the spoils being shared among European champion, James Dasaolu (10.03s), Mike Rodgers (10.04s) and Nigerian born Qatari sprinter Femi Ogunode who posted a Personal Best (PB) of 10.04s. Nigeria and Team Africa’s Mark Jelks took fourth with 10.12s while teammate and the continent’s fastest man, Hua Wilfried Koffi was unable to replicate the form that saw him scoop the sprint double a month ago, finishing a distant seventh 10.22s.
The Americas led the 4x100m relays as Campbell-Brown anchored the female team to a top place with a time of 42.44s, while the African team comprising of Gloria Asumnu, Dominique Duncan, Ta Lou and Justine Palframan was disqualified. It was the same story in the men’s event as the team comprising of Kim Collins, Nesta Carter, Michael Rodgers and Richard Thompson took the race with a scorching PB of 37.97s. The African team, which was made up of the Nigerian quartet of Jelks, Obinna Metu, Edward Monzavous and Ogho-Oghene Egwero, clocked 39.10s to take third.
Schippers coasted to victory in the women’s 200m in 22.28s, Ta Lou placed fifth with a PB of 22.78s while Duncan finished seventh with 23.63s, same position as Koffi in the men’s event. The Americas pair of Alonso Edward and Rasheed Dwyer clocked 19.98s in the men’s race, making it the second time ever at this competition that two men have gone sub-20 in the event. Ogunode picked another bronze in the event.
The men’s triple jump event ended with a PB for winner, Benjamin Compaore (17.48m) and National Record (NR) for Mokoena (17.35m). Nigeria’s Tosin Oke narrowly missed out on a place on the podium with a fourth place finish, posting a jump of 16.89m. African and Commonwealth champion, Ese Brume had to settle for fifth position in the women’s long jump event with a leap of 6.34m. Europe’s Éloyse Lesueur won the event with 6.66m as world No.1, Tianna Bartoletta was relegated to third position with 6.45m.
Stephen Mozia secured seventh position in the men’s discus throw with a distance of 57.31m in the event was won by Europe’s Gerd Kanter in 64.46m, while Chinwe Okoro finished sixth with a throw of 16.35m in the women’s shot put event. She took seventh position a day earlier in the discus event, recording a throw of 52.30m. African 110 hurdles champion, Tyrone Akins ran a Season’s Best (SB) of 13.48s to place fifth in his event while teammate, Juan De Vries finished in eighth position. Sergey Shubenkov (13.23s), Ronnie Ash (13.25s) and William Sharman (13.25s) emerged the top three in the event.
Nigerian champion, Folashade Abugan finished sixth in the 400m but Zambia’s Kabange Mupopo was faster, securing the fourth position with a PB and NF of 50.87s, which was a remarkable feat achieved by the footballer turned sprinter. Mupopo is certainly one to watch out for in the near future!
Despite the European invasion, there were flashes of brilliance from some of Team Africa’s representatives. First on the list is Cornel Fredericks outstanding performance in the men’s 400m hurdles on Day 1 of the competition. There was no slowing down the African and Commonwealth champion who raced to his third international title in 2014 in 48.34s, relegating the likes of Javier Culson to third position. His fellow African partner, Chris Morton placed fifth in 49.65s.
Another spectacular performance was the 1-2 finish in the men’s 800m as Botswana’s Nijel Amos and Mohammed Aman outpaced their rivals to win the men’s 800m. Amos, the African and Commonwealth champion took the event in 1:44.88s, while his Ethiopian counterpart followed with 1:45.34s.
Makwala was impressive in the 400m, following world No.2, Lashawn Merritt closely with 44.84s. The American and Diamond League winner took the race in 44.60s. More outstanding though was the Batswana’s feat in the 4x400m as his second leg run turned out to be the defining moment of the race, as he took over the lead from the Americas. Third and anchor leg runners, Saviour Kombe and Van Niekerk consolidated on his performance to gift the hosts a befitting gold medal in the final event of the competition with a PB of 3:00.02s. The Europeans (3:00.10s) followed while the Americas and Asian-Pacific teams placed third and fourth respectively in 3:02.78s and 3:03.77s.
In the women’s category, the Jamaican led team raced to first position with a world of 3:20.93s, followed by Europe(3:24.12s) while the African team comprising of Mupopo, Abugan, Patience Okon George and Ada Benjamin posted a PB of 3:25.51s to place third.
Other Africans who won their events include Egypt’s Ihab Abdelrahman El Sayed in the javelin throw (85.44m), Isiah Kiplangat Koech in the men’s 5000m (13:26.86s), Eunice Sum in the women’s 800m (1:58.21s), Genzebe Dibaba in the women’s 3000m (8:57.53s) and Jairus Kipchoge Birech in the 3000m steeplechase men (8:13.18).