Soufianne El Bakkali defeated Lamecha Girma in an epic steeplechase at Rabat DL, June 5, 2022, photo by Diamond League AG
This is the second preview done by our man in Nigeria, Deji Ogeyingbo. Deji is a fine sports writer and loves the sport of athletics, among the other sports he covers. We also hear that he is quite the football fan. Deji will be at the African Athletics Championships covering the event for RunBlogRun this week. This preview is on the middle distance races!
African Athletics Championships Preview: Men and Women middle Distance
Almost 800 athletes representing 47 Nations will be in action when the African Senior Athletics Championships take place in Mauritius from 8-12 June.
Here, we take a look at the men and women's middle distance:
Men and Women's 800m
Nigel Amos has won the last three titles in the men's 800 and he will be hoping to make it four in a row in Maurice 2022. The Botswanan who holds the fourth fastest 800m time in the world with 1:41.73 has only raced twice this season. That still won't deter him as he will be the favourite to take the crown.
Nijel Amos, photo by World Athletics Championships Doha 2019
Although Morocco will be missing Moad Zahafi who tops the African rankings this year at 1:43.69, Amos' main opposition will come in the form of Kenya's Nicholas Kebenie. The 26-year-old has chalked off almost two seconds from his Personal Best in the span of a year, reaching 1:45.07 in April.
Meanwhile, Algeria's Slimane Moula will be looking to follow in the footsteps of Tahofik Makhloufi who last won a medal for their country in the event in 2014. Moula has topped 1:44.19 this season.
Caster Semenya has won the last two titles over the women's 800m, but this time she will not be defending her title having been listed to run in the women's 5000m for Team South Africa. Regardless, they will still be hopeful as a rising star, Prudence Sekgodiso currently sits fourth in the World standings and first in Africa over the 800m.
The 20-year-Old couldn't make her mark on the world stage last year at the World Junior Championships in Nairobi because she tested positive for Covid 19 despite being the top U20 athlete. Sekgodiso has put that behind her and announced herself at the Kip Kieno classic in April with a new Personal Best of 1:58.41.
One of the other three athletes to have run inside two minutes, Jarinta Mwasya will lead Kenya's charge over the distance. Less than two weeks ago, the 25-year-old ran 1:59.84. Naomi Korir (2:00.06) and Vivian Chebet (2:01.00) will also provide stiff competition.
Men's and Women's 1500m
Fourth at the Tokyo Olympics and fourth at the African Games in 2019, Abel Kipsang is in search of his first major championship Gold. The Kenyan is undoubtedly the favourite to win the men's 1500m in Mauritius. Since his Bronze medal win at the World indoors in Belgrade, Kipsang has gone unbeaten outdoors in 2022, winning all seven of his races.
Abel Kipsang, Doha DL, photo by Diamond League AG
Kipsang ran his season's best at the Kip Keino Classic where he ran 3:31.01. South Africa's Ryan Mphalele has put together a good series of races this year, clocking 3:35.36 in Stellenbosch in March and will be hoping to steal a match on Kipsang.
Kenya's Kumari Taki is a finalist from the 2018 Commonwealth Games and will hope to cause an upset. One thing is almost certain, Elijah Manangoi's Championship record of 3:35.20 will most certainly fall.
Winny Chebet, 2022 Birmingham Muller British Grand Prix, photos by Getty Images for British Athletics
On the women's side, Kenya has turned to the trio of Purity Chepkirui (4:10.38), Winny Chebet (4:05.56) and Brenda Chebet (4:05.50) in the absence of World and Olympic Champion Faith Kipyegon. However, Ethiopia's Deribe Welteji tops the field heading into Mauritius at 3:59.19.
Men's and women's 3000m SteepleChase
The last edition of the African Championships pitted two of the greats in the discipline against each other. In what was a close contest, it was Kenya's Conseslus Kipruto who triumphed over Olympic Champion Soufiane El Bakkali in Asaba. This time around, Ethiopia's Lamecha Girma tops the World and African ranking with his 7:58.68 from the Ostrava Golden Spike.
Soufianne El Bakkali, June 5, 2022, Rabat DL, photo by Larry Eder via Peacock TV
El Bakkali will be on a mission to claim his first title on African soil after placing tenth in Marrakech 2014 and third at the African Games in Rabat. (Editor's note: El Bakkali defeated Girma in an epic steeplechase at the Rabat Diamond League meeting, in front of 25,000 screaming fans.)
Ethiopia's Hailemariyam Tegnen boasts a PB of 8:07.70, a time he clocked when he finished second to El Bakkali in Ostrava. He was also a third-place finisher in the African Games in 2015. Kenya's biggest challenger will come in the mould of Abraham Kibbiwot and Benjamin Kigen.
Kibbiwot is a Commonwealth Games Silver medallist and has already clocked 8:16.40 this year, while Kigen, who has made his mark in the event over the years accumulating accolades and is the African Games Champion will hope to bring his experience to the fore.
Celliphine Chespol, London 2017, photo by Getty Images for World Athletics
In the women's draw, Celliphine Chespol leads Kenya's charge. The 2018 World Junior Champion played second fiddle to Beatrice Chepkoech in 2018 as she eventually settled for Silver. In the absence of her compatriot, Chespol will look to finally blossom on the big stage.
However, Chespol is not the top entry at this year's African Championships. That honour goes to Ethiopia's Mekides Abebe. The World and Olympic Games finalist finished third at last weekend's Prefontaine Classic, clocking a Season's Best of 9:03.26.
Olympic Champion, Peruth Chemutai was not listed by Uganda.