On Wednesday, we published the first part of our Top 10 Female African Athletes for 2019. Let’s conclude the series by completing the countdown from Nos. 5 to 1!
- Tobi Amusan
What a year 2019 was for Tobi Amusan! She undoubtedly is Africa’s No. 1 100m Hurdler at the moment, and her achievements saw her reach lofty heights this year.
Not since the days of the great Glory Alozie has an African ruffled feathers with the top order in the women’s 100m Hurdles like Amusan has.
The 2015 African Games Champion opened her season in April at the Drake Relays, racing to a time of 12.96s to place 4th. Less than a week later, she blitzed to a 2nd place finish at the Doha Diamond League, clocking 12.73s.
In July, Amusan dominated the 100m Hurdles at the Meeting Pro Athlé Tour de Sotteville les Rouen, clocking 12.49s to shatter her previous lifetime best of 12.57s. The performance elevated the Ogun-state born athlete, who raced to the 2017 NCAA crown and took the African title on home soil in Asaba last year, to 2nd on the African all-time list, 0.05 shy of Alozie’s Area Record (AR) set 21 years ago.
That win saw her sit on 3rd place on the 2019 season list, and the signs were looking good for Amusan. Before the World Champs, she had to get the African Games title in the bag. She did that with poise as she did not only win the crown, but also surpassed Alozie’s long standing Games Record, setting a new one of 12.68s to retain her GOLD medal from 2015.
Amusan went into the World Champs as the 3rd ranked athlete in her event and she lived up to the billing by running a new Personal Best (PB) of 12.48s in the heats and semis, winning both races.
Then came the final and Amusan was a shoe-in for a medal. However, the race didn’t go as expected as she was the last to leave the blocks, and despite running well in the final third of the race, it wasn’t enough to put her on the podium, finishing 4th with 12.49s.
Though it was a bitter pill to swallow, the continental champion will now focus on graduating from school at the end of the year, and then plan towards the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
MoC Ranking: 5
World Athletics African Ranking: 13
- Marie Josee Ta Lou
For a sprinter like Marie Josée Ta Lou who only began to etch her name in the minds of followers of Athletics in the last five years, it is really outstanding to see how she has been able to stay at the top through every season.
Like the previous years, Ta Lou is one athlete who is adept at mixing both the indoor and outdoor season, and she almost did that to perfection this year.
In fact, after winning five of her seven indoor races this year, the diminutive sprinter capped it off by storming to a World Leading 7.02 victory in the 60m at the PSD Bank Meeting in Dusseldorf in February. The win saw her clip 0.03s from the PB that propelled her to a World Indoors Silver last year.
Ta Lou’s outdoor season did not start until June, where she had a series of modest outings in the Diamond League (DL). Her best showing in the DL came at the Prefontaine Classic at the tail end of June as she sped to a 11.02s clocking.
She wasn’t in superb form going into the African Games, but she had just enough in the tank to see her over the line in the 100m.
With major rival, Blessing Okagbare out of the final due to a disqualification in the semis, the coast was clear for Ta Lou to defend her title. She did that with aplomb, winning in 11.09s to pick up Ivory Coast’s first Athletics medal at the Games. She however won Bronze in the 200m, eventually collapsing on the track after crossing the line, as she had an injury scare.
Heading into the World Championships in Doha, the African Championships double GOLD medallist, equalled her PB of 10.85s to win her heat, and then clocked 10.87s in the semis, and the stage was set for an epic final. Despite running an almost perfect race, she just couldn’t reel in Jamaica’s sprint queen, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who went on to clinch the win. Ta Lou clocked 10.90s to take Bronze, which she was more than contented with.
She will also take solace in the fact she ran under 10.90s this year, a time that will certainly boost her confidence going into next year’s Olympics.
MoC Ranking: 4
World Athletics African Ranking: 8
- Hellen Obiri
At No. 3 on our countdown is Kenya’s long distance runner Hellen Obiri. After winning the Commonwealth Games and African Championships last year, Obiri had the best of starts to 2019.
In her first three months of competing, she took victories at the IAAF Cross Country Permit meeting in Elgoibar in January, the Defence Forces Championships in Nairobi, and the Kenyan Cross Country Championships last February.
However, Obiri’s biggest achievement came in late March when she cemented her place in Athletics history as she became the first woman ever to win senior world titles indoors, outdoors and at cross country when she clocked 36:14 at the IAAF/Mikkeller World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus.
The multiple Diamond League winner continued her strong racing momentum with a sensational 3000m performance, winning a fierce last lap battle with 1500m World Record (WR) holder Genzebe Dibaba en route an 8:25.60 triumph.
In spite of her outstanding displays this year, Obiri’s eyes were fixed on winning her first 10,000m world title. Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan and she finished outside the medals zone in 5th position. She then focused on defending the 5000m title she won in London two years ago, and this she did in what was a pulverizing race, retaining her crown in a Championship Record (CR) of 14:26.72.
After her splendid performance in 2019, Obiri will now set her sights on winning her first Olympic GOLD heading into the Tokyo Games next year.
MoC Ranking: 3
World Athletics African Ranking: 2
- Beatrice Chepkoech
Sometimes it is the raw numbers rather than the words, which best encapsulate the quality of the performance. So when Beatrice Chepkoech ran 8:44.32 to set a World 3000m Steeplechase Record in Monaco last year, many knew it was just a matter of time before all the pieces fell into place, and they did in 2019!
Chepkoech had an almost flawless 2019 season. She set the pace in the DL in Shanghai when the Meeting Record (MR) fell in the women’s 3000m Steeplechase in the Chinese City. The World Record (WR) holder was already in front after the second kilometre and was never threatened, clocking a World Lead (WL) of 9:04.53.
All these paled in comparison to what she wanted the most; a World Championships GOLD medal. After her 4th place finish in London two years ago in which she lost direction and had to run back for the water jump, there was to be no repeat of such again.
The WR Record holder made sure she left herself plenty of room for any possible errors in Doha as she stormed to a 20m lead after the opening lap and then kept the chasing pack at bay, powering home in a time of 8:57.84.
The outstanding Kenyan crossed a commanding five seconds clear of 2017 Champion Emma Coburn. The American had to settle for Silver, while Germany’s Gesa Felicitas Krause took the Bronze for a second time.
MoC Ranking: 2
World Athletics African Ranking: 1
- Brigid Kosgei
If there was any lingering doubt that we have entered a new era in marathon running, we can now dispense with such thoughts as seven of the ten fastest women’s marathon performances in history have occurred in the past two years. However, the most important time on that list was set on a swirly Chicago morning.
Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei delivered a dizzying head-twister of a performance to blow away Paula Radcliffe’s World marathon record. The Briton’s mark of 2:15.25 had stood unchallenged for 16 years, yet Kosgei obliterated it by an astonishing 81s.
The feat achieved by Kosgei came with its own sacrifice. In September, Kosgei opted not to honor an invitation to represent her country at the World Champs in Doha, a decision that came as a huge surprise to many.
“We asked for her to be excused because we had planned something special but we didn’t speak about it because we didn’t want to put her under any pressure”, her coach Eric Kimaiyo said.
After missing the World Champs, the Kenyan advertised her sensational form the month before breaking the record by winning the Great North Run in 64:28, the fastest time for a woman over 13.1 miles, and she was said to be flying in training. She had also won the London Marathon in 2:18:20 in April.
The sacrifice paid off as Kosgei completed the Chicago Marathon in 2:14.4. Overall, it was a huge win for Kenya as her run came just one day after fellow Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge posted a historic time of 1:59:40 as he completed the fastest marathon distance at the Ineos 1:59 Challenge in Vienna, Austria.
Kosgei’s minute-and-a-half improvement on the previous World Record (WR) mirrors Eluid Kipchoge’s obliteration of the official men’s mark in last year’s Berlin Marathon. But while Kipchoge is in the twilight of his career, Kosgei is only 25 and believes that she hasn’t yet exhausted her potential.
MoC Ranking: 1
World Athletics African Ranking: 3