Could this be the year that Africa finally gets a World Championships medal in the men’s 100m?
This has been a question lingering on the minds of many track fans and enthusiasts in the lead up to the Budapest 2023 World Athletics Championships, and rightfully so, looking at how much depth there is in African sprinting at the moment.
A total of eleven (11) men from the continent have broken 10 seconds in the blue-ribbon event, the highest ever, breaking the previous record of seven recorded in 2022, a sign that this year could herald its truly golden era in sprinting.
Ferdinand Omanyala (Kenya)
Spearheading the charge for this year’s World Championships is Ferdinand Omanyala who is not only Africa’s fastest man, but also the world’s second fastest man this season, with his time of 9.84s recorded at the Kip Keino Classic in Nairobi.
Omanyala, who got his first Diamond League win two weeks ago in Monaco, will aim to have a better outing in comparison to last year’s World Championships where he had visa issues and arrived late in Oregon. Despite this hiccup, he still went ahead to make the semifinals and has been largely tipped to be one of the men to beat this year in Hungary.
Kenyan Champion for the fourth time this season, by the time he lines up for the first round of racing in Budapest, he’ll be making his 20th appearance (including heats and finals) over 100m this year.
Omanyala who has been very confident and outspoken on his chances of being the World 100m Champion, will also enter the World Championships as the highest ranked athlete in the event this season.
Letsile Tebogo (Botswana)
Not far behind is Letsile Tebogo who is a double threat. He has shown he is capable of performing when it matters and that he is in peak form, having churned successful Personal Bests (PB) in the weeks leading to the championship.
He started by running a 400m time of 44.75s in mid-July, a huge PB for a sprinter and then a 100m Season’s Best (SB) of 9.93s behind Omanyala in Monaco, before putting down a staggering lifetime best of 19.50s over 200m, breaking the long-standing African Record set by Frankie Fredericks 27 years ago!
All of these performances spanned just over a week, also making him one of only two athletes to have hit the qualification standards for the World Championships in the 100m, 200m and 400m.
Just 20 years of age, Tebogo’s talent is massive, rapidly burgeoning, and not fully well perceived. With his trajectory, he could very well be the dark horse of the men’s sprints in Budapest.
Akani Simbine (South Africa)
Akani Simbine has been to every global championship since 2016. His consistency on the African circuit is unmatched by any sprinter currently competing and this is evident, going by the fact that he has the highest number of sub-10 clockings by an African man, with the record at 37!
It has been near misses and close calls for the one-time Commonwealth Games Champion, being the ‘almost athlete’ at every edition of these global championships.
He has however been on a high this season, winning his sixth national title early this year at Potchefstroom and racking up as much as 11 top two finishes in 12 appearances over 100m, including eight victories!
He has also taken a few big scalps in the event, beating World Champion Fred Kerley at the Silesia Diamond League and ending his undefeated run since 2021. That was his second consecutive Diamond League win of the season, also finishing ahead of big names such as the American 100m Champion Cravont Charleston, World Silver medallist Marvin Bracy and Jamaicans Yohan Blake and Ackeem Blake.
Simbine would have taken a lot from those races and should be primed for another bout of competition that could potentially earn him his first global championship medal in Budapest.
Shaun Maswanganyi (South Africa)
Shaun Maswanganyi made quite a splash this season on the US collegiate circuit where he broke several records, including the Houston University School Record in the 100m, which now stands at 9.91s.
Trained by Carl Lewis, he has gradually made his way up the ranks in the NCAA, winning a Bronze in the 100m at the finals in Texas and also becoming one of very few athletes to break 10 seconds in the 100m and 20 seconds at 200m, on the same day. He is the fastest Southern African this season.
Emmanuel Eseme (Cameroon)
Cameroon for the first time this season, has a man under 10 seconds over 100m in the form of Emmanuel Eseme whose rise to the echelon of sprinting has been phenomenal. He only got into sprinting officially at the age of 25 and has since then won four national titles, an African Silver medal and most recently, the 100m title at the Francophone Games in DR Congo.
Despite having so many races in his legs this season, he recently broke 10 seconds twice and certainly looks poised for more.
Emmanuel Matadi (Liberia)
Between Emmanuel Matadi and his countryman Joseph Fahnbulleh, there has been an exchange/reclaiming of National Records (NR) in the 100m twice this season.
Fahnbulleh who is known for his relatively poor starts in races, started off the year nicely with a PB of 9.98s, a time that equalled Matadi’s NR from 2022.
The older Liberian, having stayed at the top for so long, hawked down that time, going 9.97s at the Ed Murphey Classic, just two weeks away from the World Championships!