The 2019 Track and Field season was without a doubt a big year for African athletes! Being a Championship year, they kept bringing out the best to continually etch the continent’s name on the world map, from a few low key meets, to the Diamond League, and then the World Championships that brought an end to the season.
From a large crop of athletes, here are those that have done incredibly well to make our 10-man list.
10. SELEMON BAREGA (ETHIOPIA)
At No.10 on this list is Selemon Barega. His season started on a good note as he secured 2nd place at the first leg of the IAAF Diamond League in Shanghai (CHN) where there was an Ethiopian 1-2-3 finish over the 5000m. He finished behind his countryman Yomif Kejelcha with a time of 13:04.71 and then he built on this.
At the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea (Rome) where the fastest times over the distance in 2019 were produced, Barega, a 12:43 runner at his best, seemed to have it in his clutch after he took the initiative for the lead with 200m to go.
He was closely tailed by his compatriot Telahun Haile Bekele who wasn’t to be denied a win for his breakthrough, posting the fastest time of the season with a Personal Best (PB) of 12:52.98. Barega was just adrift by 0.06s as he earned 2nd place in a Season’s Best (SB) of 12:53.04.
Also showing some versatility, he dropped down in distance to the 3000m at the Oslo Diamond League where he defeated Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei, coming away with the win in a PB of 7:32.17 as the latter placed 2nd in 7:33.26.
His specialty, the 5000m, was rather a game of toss on the circuit as he was only 5th at the Zurich Diamond League final but he executed at the World Athletics Championships in Doha where he finished 2nd, earning his first World Championships outdoor medal of any colour in 12:59.70, an upgrade from his 5th place finish at his World Championships debut in London.
Barega posted a World Junior Record (WJR) for the two-mile distance at the Prefontaine Classic where he finished 3rd in 8:08.69, while he also set a brilliant PB of 26:49.46 at the Ethiopian 10,000m Trials in Hengelo.
MoC Ranking: 10
IAAF African Ranking: 7
9. AKANI SIMBINE (SOUTH AFRICA)
Akani Simbine has been very much around and is one of the world’s top picks in the men’s sprints. As the reigning African and Commonwealth Games 100m champion, he demonstrates short spurts of speed and immense strength in every race he is entered, and this, in 2019, has only given him more prominence in the sport.
The South African Track and Field outdoor season starts out while the IAAF Indoor season is still on, so Simbine opened up at the Athletics Grand Prix Series in Potchefstroom in March where he clocked 20.39s over the 200m. Just ten days after his opener, he won the South African 200m title in 20.27s, further gearing up for what was a long season.
All through the season, he garnered as much as four wins (heats and finals) on the circuit over the 100m and was in search of his first global medal since his major breakthrough in 2016 where he set the South African 100m Record in 9.89s.
Having won his heat and semi-final of the men’s 100m at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, he looked set for the big stage.
In the final, Akani had a relatively good start but was just edged into 4th place while he tied his Season’s Best (SB) of 9.93s, which he had run while winning the men’s 100m at the Muller Anniversary Games in London.
He was part of the South African team that broke the African Record (AR) held by Nigeria in the heats of the men’s 4x100m at the Worlds. He teamed up with Thando Dlodlo, Simon Magakwe, and Clarence Munyai while he anchored the team to the finish in a fast 37.65s.
MoC Ranking: 9
IAAF African Ranking: 16
8. NIJEL AMOS (BOTSWANA)
Since his massive breakthrough in 2012 when he won the World Junior title over 800m and set a World Junior Record (WJR) at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Nijel Amos has continually shown up every season, proving to be one of the best runners in the world over the two-lap distance.
He opened up at the IAAF Diamond League in Doha where he topped the men’s 800m in 1:44.29, a time he improved on at the Golden Gala – Pietro Mennea. He manned the race for long but for the late burst of strength displayed by American Donovan Brazier who edged him for the win by a narrow 0.02s while Amos temporarily improved his Season’s Best (SB) in 1:43.65.
In what was perhaps one of the biggest highlights of the 2019 Diamond League season, Amos at the Monaco stop of the 14-leg series, took the lid off the event, brushing it’s cabinets as he produced a sterling run that had him take the win in 1:41.89.
The time was just 0.16s off the PB he set in 2012 and stands as the fastest time in the world in almost seven years – since David Rudisha set the World Record (WR).
He broke 45s over the 400m for the first time in his career by running 44.99s when he won the event at the Meeting Citta Di Padova in Italy while he again finished runner-up to Donavan Brazier in the Diamond League Final.
The Botswana athlete who had copped a hamstring injury at the London Diamond League and missed a month of action was a DNS in his heat at the World Athletics Championships. This, he attributed to a very tight left Achilles tendon.
He waits to pick up his first global medal since the London 2012 Olympics where he won Silver in a WR race as a teen.
MoC Ranking: 8
IAAF African Ranking: 10
7. YOMIF KEJELCHA (ETHIOPIA)
Yomif Kejelcha’s heroics in 2019 started from the indoor season where he broke Hicham El Guerrouj’s World Indoor Mile Record at the Bruce Lehane Invitational in Boston with a brilliant 3:47.01 clocking, which bettered the previous record by over a second.
In the same lane, he improved his indoor 1500m Personal Best (PB) in the process as he was timed 3:31.25, which elevated him to third on the all-time list behind Samuel Tefera and Hicham El Guerrouj.
He opened up his outdoor season on a good note with a 5000m win at the Payton Jordan Invitational, and also won the Shanghai Diamond League and the Lausanne Diamond League – his only competitions over the distance before the Diamond League final where he finished 6th.
Surprisingly, he decided to move up in distance, going out to as much as 10000m where he had no prior competitive experience asides the Ethiopian Trials in Hengelo.
He finished 3rd in 26:49.99, a PB which he improved on while competing at the World Championships, bringing an end to his season with a 26:49.34 clocking that got him Silver in only his second try over the distance.
MoC Ranking: 7
IAAF African Ranking: 4
6. MUKTAR EDRIS (ETHIOPIA)
You should know by now that Muktar Edris is not only a team player, he is also a big Championship performer. After he beat Mo Farah to earn his first World 5000m title in London, the Ethiopian was sidelined for almost two years by an injury to his Achilles tendon as he struggled to reach the form which brought him to the limelight in 2017.
The injury also took a heavy toll on his training pattern but that’s just a part of his story, because he kept going on, even though he competed sparsely all season.
With a bye given to the defending World Champions, Edris was only at the World Championships to offer his teammates the best support they could get. He went to Doha with a Season’s Best (SB) of 13:29.53, done at the Lausanne Diamond League where he managed 18th place.
He was assured one of the pole positions after sticking with the leading pack till they hit the bell, but he put up an amazing show of strength, grit and honour when he swept past his fellow competitors, powering away over the final 100m to cross the finish in 12:58.85.
It was indeed a great and highly rewarding moment for the Ethiopian, winning with the from-no-where style that materialized into GOLD for him two years ago.
MoC Ranking: 6
IAAF African Ranking: 58