Some of the biggest stories coming out of the London Olympic games were headlined by African athletes. Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee "blade runnner", inspired everyone with his gutsy performance in the semi-finals of the 400m and the final 400m relay. Botswana's Nijel Amos, and Gabon's Anthony Obame have become heroes for winning the first Olympic medals for their respective countries. David Rudisha (Kenya) proved he is one of the best athletes the world has ever seen as he handily won the 800m in world record time. Tirunesh Dibaba (Ethiopia) defended her 10,000m gold successfully. Chad Le Clos butterflied his way to a gold and silver medal in the pool, dueling Michael Phelps. Caster Semenya (South Africa) won a triumphant silver in her 800m. The East Africans once again dominated the long-distance running events, and both marathons were won by Africans. All in all, London 2012 was a success. South Africans in particular were very happy with the results, the Kenyans a little less so.
Africa's 2012 Olympic Swimming Medals (and other Watersports)
The South Africans made the biggest waves in the pool of any African nation. Chad Le Clos won gold in the 200m butterfly, and silver in the 100m butterfly (switching places with his hero Michael Phelps). Cameron Van der Burgh won gold in the 100m breaststroke. Le Clos was a sensation, making four Olympic finals in London. He pulled out of the 400m individual medley to concentrate on the 100m butterfly, which was worth his while as he won silver. His father Bert le Clos also became an overnight YouTube star with his enthusiastic support for his son.
Bridgitte Hartley won South Africa's first bronze medal at the Olympic Games, in the women's kayak single K1 500m race. South Africa won a third gold medal in the men's lightweight 4 rowing event putting them ahead in the medal standings of all African nations by the first week.
Tunisian swimmer Oussama Mellouli won the bronze in the 1500m freestyle final. Oussama also went on to win a stunning gold medal in the 10k open swim. He is the first Olympian to ever medal in both the pool and open water at the same Olympics. He told the Associated Press: "“I hope every Tunisian watching on TV today could share in my pride and joy,” -- “We definitely needed that.” Referring to the tumultuous political year Tunisia has had.
Suzaan van Biljon (South Africa) made the final in the 200m breaststroke, breaking the African record. Kirsty Coventry, Zimbabwe's top Olympian qualified for several swimming finals, but failed to make the podium this time round. She did well to reach the finals and Zimbabwe should be proud.
Africa's 2012 Olympic Track and Field Medals
By the end of the first week, the track events got underway and that really started Ethiopia and Kenya off with a bang. Tirunesh Dibaba (Ethiopia) defended her previous Beijing gold medal, handily beating out her competition to win gold in the 10,000m. Kenyan runner Sally Kipyego picked up silver and her team mate Vivian Cheruiyot won bronze.
South Africa's 25 year old Oscar Pistorius made history - he finished last in his 400m semi-final but won the hearts of everyone. "It's really humbling to know how much support I have," he said. "Just standing here in the starting blocks, hearing the crowd I was just standing, smiling, getting cramps in my cheeks. "I have always been an athlete who wants to push myself as hard as I can and I look up to the guys I run against. "I don't have any regrets. Just being out here in front of this crowd with 70,000 people, it felt like 170,000 people. It's been an unbelievable experience for me."- (Source: BBC). Luckily after that interview, the South Africans ended up qualifying for the 400m relay, where Pistorius ran the anchor leg, with the crowds behind him all the way. More than any other athlete (with the exception perhaps of Michael Phelps), Pistorius truly has inspired the next generation of athletes, whether they make it to the Olympics or not. He will stay on in London to compete in the 100m, 200m and 400m Paralympic competition.
South Africa's Caster Semenya showed lots of class by finishing second and earning a deserved silver medal. She is only 21 years old and has had to endure lots of unfair pressure in the past with those questioning her gender. Semenya's was South Africa's only medal in athletics, with disappointing results for hurdler LJ Van Zyl. But 200m sprinter Anaso Jobodwana made it the finals and is showing much promise for Rio in 2016.
Kenyan runners somewhat disappointed in London, with no showing in the 1500m and losing both marathons (although winning silver and bronze in the men's and silver in the women's shows how high their bar was set). So it was up to David Rudisha to win the 800m gold, and he did in world record breaking style. Rudisha is the first Maasai to win an Olympic medal, since his father Daniel won a silver in the 4x400m relay during the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico.
At the beginning of the second week of the Olympics all seemed well, with Kenyan steeplechasers proving their dominance in this grueling 3000m race, having won gold in every Olympics since 1984. Ezikiel Kemboy won gold (a repeat of his 2004 Olympics), and fellow team mate Kiprop Mutai took home bronze. Poor defending Olympic champion Brimin Kipruto tripped with just 700m remaining and was sent crashing to the track, he ended up in 5th place.
Ethiopian women in particular had a very good Olympics, taking gold in the women's marathon, women's 10,000m and women's 5,000m. A bronze medal in the 3000m steeplechase and the women's 5,000m rounded out their medal count. Tirunesh Dibaba defended her 10,000m gold medal but only managed bronze in the 5,000m where she was outpaced by fellow country woman, Meseret Defar who won gold.
Algeria's Taoufik Makhloufi won gold in the 1500m after being expelled from the Olympics due to "unsporting" behavior during an 800m race, where he did not bother to finish. He appealed on the basis of a knee injury, and the Olympic committee allowed him back into the Olympics once he produced a doctor's note. A day later he won the 1500m. Morocco won their only medal in the same event, a bronze for Abdalaati Iguider.
Botswana had their hearts set on a medal win by Amantle Montsho, the 400m world champion in 2011. Montsho was the subject of many news stories before the games and she looked good until the final. The race was very close but unfortunately Amantle Montsho missed a medal place at the line by 0.03 seconds. It was up to the young 18 year old 800 m runner Nijel Amos to keep Botswana's hopes alive and he delivered in style. Running a great race to come second to Rudisha's brilliant world record breaking performance. A silver for Botswana, the country's first medal.
Uganda won their first gold medal in over 40 years, Steven Kiprotich surprised the world to win the men's marathon on the final day of the Olympics. In a race filled with Ethiopian and Kenyan record holders, the 23 year old Ugandan outran them all to win in 2 hrs, 8 mins and 1 second. Steven does train in Kenya alongside former world champion in the 5,000m Eliud Kipchoge. And it was the final 5km that caused the upset, as the Ugandan sped ahead of the Kenyans Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich and Abel Kirui (who took silver and bronze).
Africa's 2012 Olympic Taekwondo, Wrestling, and Fencing Medals
Gabon got their first Olympic medal, Anthony Obame won the silver in Taekwondo (+80kg division). He almost won a gold! Taekwondo is a sport that has really allowed many African nations and athletes to compete in the Olympics, so hopefully this will be the start of more success in Rio 2016.
Egypt's Karam Mohamed Gaber won a silver medal in the men's Greco-Roman 84 kg Wrestling competition. He won the gold medal in Athens in 2004, and became the first Egyptian athlete to win an Olympic gold medal in 56 years. Sadly several wrestling team mates missed their first bouts due to a scheduling change, and were unable to compete.
Egypt's second medal came in the fencing competition, Alaaeldin Abouelkassem won silver in the men's foil event. This was Africa's very first fencing medal, an exciting turn of events, and this young man has a good future ahead of him.
Final Medal Counts for Africa's 2012 Olympic Games
- South Africa lead the medal table in London, with 3 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze medal.
- Ethiopia followed with 3 gold, 1 silver and 3 bronze medals all coming in athletics in the long distance events.
- Kenya got the largest total medal haul with 2 gold, 4 silver and 5 bronze, all of their medals came from track events. In Beijing they got 16 medals, so a little disappointing this time round.
- Tunisia won 3 medals, a gold, a silver and a bronze. Two of the medals were won by their swimming hero Oussama Mellouli.
- Algeria and Uganda each won a gold medal (for Uganda it was first gold since 1972).
Egypt won 2 silver medals.
- Botswana won their first ever Olympic medal, a silver in the men's 800m.
- Gabon won their first Olympic medal, a silver in Taekwondo.
- Morocco won a bronze medal.