This is a new column by Deji Ogeyingbo. I liked this one. Deji is going to send us the top ten Female and Male African athletes. I have to admit, I like Deji’s approach and his back storys on the athletes. Let us know what you think on this one! Thanks, Deji! Part 2 (5-1), will go up on Friday, November 26!
Top 10 African Female athlete in 2021 (10-6)
From road running to track and field performances in 2021 African Female athletes came into their own in major championships as they proved how good they can be on the World stage. Some of them won laurels in competitions like the Olympic Games, Diamond League, and Continental Gold tour meets, while others made history by setting records in their various disciplines.
For this list, we will be counting down to our Top 10 female African athletes in 2021 as we feature Nos. 10-6 on this list.
10. Peruth Chemutai
Until this year, Uganda had not produced a female medallist at the Olympic Games. All of their 10 medals at the Olympic Games have come from men. However, Peruth Chemutai’s gold medal achievement in the women’s 3000m at this year’s Olympic Games bucked the trend.
Many observers of the sports drew comparisons to Halimah Nakaayi’s emergence as World Champion in the women’s 800m at the World Championships in 2009. But Chemutai’s victory in Tokyo this year was laced with so much vigor and gutsiness that she emerged out of the blues to give the East African Nation that unprecedented win.
Her 2021 season didn’t get off the ground in impressive style as she could only manage to 9:43.80 at the 6th UAF Trials and Uganda U20 Championships in April, although she placed 1st. She managed to improve her time at the Diamond League in Doha in May when she clocked 9:22.09 to finish 8th.
After competing at the Ethiopian trials in Hengelo where she placed fifth, she wasn’t amongst the favorite for a medal heading into the Olympics, but she was optimistic. That she proved when she ran in the fastest semifinal, pushing Bahrain’s Yavi Winfred to the limit as she came through in 2nd in 9:12.72. The time put her second-best amongst the 15 finalists and she began to hope.
Up against some of the world bests like Beatrice Chepkoech and Hyvin Kiyeng in a final that also featured eight of the top nine performances in 2021 before then, it was keenly contested.
In the final, USA’s Courtney Frerichs broke away from the pack after the 1000m mark, but it was Chemutai who made her move as the bell rang on the final lap, pursuing down Frerichs before crossing the line in a new national record of 9:01.45 and writing herself into the history books.
9. Marie Jose Ta Lou
In a year in which the Jamaican women were simply unstoppable in the sprints, Ivorian, Marie Jose Ta Lou was still able to ruffle some feathers and show the world she can mix and match it at the top level consistently.
Ta Lou entered the season not in the best possible shape as she had to warm her way into competing at the top level by racing low-key meets in Italy in order to get on the same level with the likes of Elaine Thompson-Herah and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
A bit of a sign came for her when at the Diamond League meet in Gateshead, the 2019 African Games Champion was able to place third behind Dina Asher-Smith and Sha’carri Richardson and ahead of Fraser-Pryce, in what was a harsh racing condition.
Her first major victory in 2021 came in July at the Bisllett Games in Oslo when she laid down the gauntlet with a strong win, clocking 10.91s. The 2019 World Championship Silver medallist then lowered that time five days later when she placed 3rd in 10.86 at the Continental Tour Gold meet in Hungary.
That ushered her into the Olympic Games in Tokyo, and although she wasn’t seen as one of the favorites for a medal, her performance in the first round must have sent a bit of shockwave down the spine of her rivals. Racing in heat 4, Ta Lou stormed to new Personal Best of 10.78s, a time that equals the African Record set by her compatriot, Murielle Ahoure.
Despite winning her semis in 10.79s, she missed out on a medal in the final when she finished 4th, the Jamaicans claimed a clean sweep of the medals. Regardless of the Olympic heartbreak again, she will take solace on the fact that she ran under 10.80 this year, a time that will certainly boost her confidence going into next year’s Olympics.
8. Helen Obiri
At No. 8 on our countdown ins Kenyan Long distance Runner Hellen Obiri. The double women’s 5000m world champion signed off on her track career by clinching a Silver for herself over the 5000m at the Olympics in Tokyo.
And although she played second-fiddle to Dutch runner Sifan Hassan for most part of the season, Obiri was still able to put up a good collection of races over the 2021 season.
The decorated runner raced sparingly this year, mainly to conserver herself for the big competitions. She warmed up well for the Olympics with a convincing performance at the Bisllett Games in Oslo where she won the women’s 5000m in 14:26.28.
At the games proper, she turned it up a gear in the final, but she came up, settling once again for Olympic silver, as she did in 2016, with Ethiopian-born Hassan claiming the win. The race was so grueling that Hassan and Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey, who won Bronze – needed post-race medical attention afterward.
The multiple Diamond League winner moved up to road racing shortly afterward. In her debut at the 40th edition of the Great North run, Obiri claimed the win in 1:07:42, six seconds ahead of the U.K.’s Eilish McColgan.
After her fine performance in 2021, Obiri will now set her sights on racing on the road as she looks to dominate there the way she did on the track.
7. Ese Brume
At this point of her career, it seems everything Nigeria’s Ese Brume touches turns to Gold. The Long Jumper may soon run out of space in her trophy cabinet as she has won basically every medal a professional athlete can win in her career. 2021 was the year she finally added an Olympic medal to her growing collection putting Nigeria on the map again after the country had not won a track medal since the Beijing 2008 Games.
Heading into the season, she had won medals at all major championships she has competed in. Gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Bronze at the World Championships in Doha in 2019, 2019 African Game, and three African Championships titles.
The ever-smiling Brume knew she had to win an Olympic medal to enter the record books for Nigeria. Her season started in Apil in Nigeria, whereas expected, she clinched gold in the Long Jump at the 20th National Sports Festival. She moved to the United States to compete in some toned-down events to build herself into the season.
Of those meets in the US, the one that resonated with many people was her performance at the Chula Vista, California where she broke Chima Ajunwa’s 25-year-Old African record in the Long Jump, reaching 7.17m. The distance rocketed the Nigerian to the top of the 2021 list, giving her hopes of a medal in Tokyo 2020 a significant boost.
At the Olympics, the women’s Long Jump was always going to be keenly contested, dragging into the very last attempt. Brume was up against familiar opponents whom she came up against at the World Championships two years back.
In the final, she came very close to a GOLD medal but eventually settled for a Bronze with a first attempt of 6.97m (+0.4). Germany’s Malaika Mihamboa won Gold with her last attempt mark of 7.00m, while USA’s Brittney Reese got Silver with an identical mark as Brume (6.97m), finishing in 2nd place on count-back.
6. Francine Niyosanba
Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba was in a world of her own both in and off the track in 2021. First, she qualified for the Olympics in both the 5000m and 10000m and then became the first athlete who has identified herself as having a difference of sex development (DSD) to officially break a world record.
It certainly put her in uncharted territory in which she had to brave the odds to make it to the Games after she was barred from competing in events from 400m-One mile. Niyonsaba announced in February that she was moving up to 5000m for a Tokyo Olympic bid. She ran her first 5000m on May 22 in 15:12.08.
In June, she clocked 14:54.38 at a meet in Montreuil, France, easily clearing the Olympic standard of 15:10. After earning a spot in the final of the 5000, she was disqualified for stepping on a line early on in the race. Despite the error giving her absolutely zero advantage in the race, her appeal was denied. The 2016 Olympic Silver medallist finished fifth in the 10,000m.
A month later, the 28-year-old set a new 2,000m record at a Continental Tour Gold meeting in Zagreb, Croatia, breaking the previous record by more than two seconds. Niyonsaba finished with a time of 5:21.26, surpassing Genzebe Dibaba’s 2017 record.
She ended her season on a high note as she won the 5000m Diamond League title and clocked the fifth-fastest 3000m time in history.