This is part two of the Top 10 African Femala athletes in 2021, this is numbers five to numbers one! Both pieces done by Deji Ogeyinbgo, Deji has his proverbial fingers on the pulse of the sport. His observations help us, the viewer, get into the minds of the top athletes and appreciate their performances even more!
Top 10 African Female athlete in 2021 (5-1)
Last time out, we unveiled our picks (10-6) of the best female African athlete of 2021. Here are our top picks (5-1) of the series as we complete the countdown.
5. Tobi Amusan
Tobi Amusan is unarguably Africa No 1 women’s 100m hurdler, and she reenacted that stance this year with her impeccable accomplishment in 2021.
After suffering the heartbreak of placing 4th at the World Championships in Doha in 2019, the 2015 African Games Champion entered the season with renewed hope of challenging Glory Alozie’s 23-year-Old African record over the hurdles and getting a major global medal.
Amusan started her season in the United States in April where she raced in a raft of events as she finished inside the top three in the majority of them. Her best performance came at the NACAC New Life Invitational in Florida where she clocked 12.43s (+4.5), a time that would have broken Alozie’s record of 12.44 mark, but for the excessive wind.
Riding on that momentum, Amusan, went into the Nigerian trials with so much confidence as she knew the record was within sight. After coming through the heats unscathed, the 2018 Commonwealth Gold medallist suffered the ignominy of having her race not timed as the timer malfunctioned, having to settle for a hand-timed race.
Amusan put that behind her as she headed into the Tokyo Olympics with a lot of optimism. After winning her heats and semis, she couldn’t step up to the plate in the final, placing 4th in 12.60s.
The climax of her season came in Zurich as she became the first Nigerian athlete in history to win a Diamond League Trophy, storming to victory in the women’s 100m Hurdles.
Not just becoming the first Nigerian to win a Diamond League Title, Amusan turned on the afterburners as she broke Glory Alozie’s African Record and clocked a new Personal Best of 12.42s (+0.4) to win the race.
That win, surely, will give her a lot of confidence going into the World Championships in Oregon in 2022.
4. Christine Mboma
Sometimes it is the raw numbers rather than the words which best encapsulate the quality of the performance. Namibia’s Christine Mboma came under a lot of scrutiny with regards to her difference of sex development (DSD) issue when she took the world by storm by clocking great times over the women’s 400m this year.
However, Mboma wasn’t able to race over the distance from June this year after she was deemed to be a DSD athlete, shortly after she clocked 48.54s over the 400m in Poland, a World U20 Record for the distance.
Shifting her focus to the 200m, Mboma clocked 22.67 for 1st in the Czech Republic, a time she couldn’t better going into her next race over the half-lap distance in Spain. It was still enough to see her qualify for the Olympics, and although she wasn’t seen as the favorite for a medal, the Namibian put up a show for the ages at the Games.
At the Tokyo Olympics, she was in a different class from the rest of the chasing pack as she won her Heat in 22.11, a new U20 World Record. A few hours later in the semis, Mboma ran 21.97 to place 2nd in her semis, a time she that will go on to lower in the final the following day, clocking 21.81s to win Silver. The time also made it a new African Record over the distance.
Since Tokyo 2020, Mboma won the women’s 200m at the World Athletics Under-20 Championships in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, while she anchored Namibia to Silver in the women’s 4x100m.
Mboma has also triumphed in two Diamond League events in Brussels and ZÃ¼rich and two World Athletics Continental Tour Gold events in Zagreb and Nairobi in the 200m.
3. Peres Jepchirchir
Two races, two dominant victories. That was the summary of Peres Jepchirchir’s 2021 season. Jepchirchir, who reportedly ran around 5km to school every day of the week when younger, has gone from strength to strength after winning the Valencia Marathon in 2:17:16 last year as she made history to become the first woman to win both the Olympics and the New York Marathon the same year.
The two-time half marathon champion went head-to-head with her compatriot, Brigid Kosgei, who is regarded as one of the greatest runners in Tokyo over 26.2 miles. In what was s very close contest in Sapporo, it was Jepchirchir who won the duel to come out tops in 2:27:20, claiming Kenya’s second consecutive gold medal in the event.
13 weeks later, Jepchirchir followed it up with another dominant victory at the New York Marathon. She survived a thrilling three-way battle before sprinting for the finish line in 2:22:39 to come out on top on the 5oth edition of one of the marathon majors.
Jepchirchir will look to build on her success this year come next year’s marathon series, where the 28-year-old will be hoping to accumulate wins and try to win a series.
2. Faith Kipyegon
Faith Kipyegon takes Nike Pre, photo by How Lao Photography
Taking our No. 2 spot is mother “Faith”, Faith Kipyegon. The Kenyan middle-distance runner had an almost perfect season which ended with defending her Olympic gold medal over the women’s 1500m.
After setting a Kenyan record of 3:54.22 to win Silver at the World Championships in Doha in 2019 she knew she had a tall order in trying to usurp Dutch woman, Sifan Hassan over the distance at the Olympics this year.
A bit of trepidation came when, in a captivating duel with Hassan at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Florence, Kipyegon finished second in a national record of 3:53.91. Regardless, she worked her socks off as she won all her races in the buildup to the Olympic games.
Prior to that, Kipyegon had raced to a world-leading national record of 3:51.07 – just one second shy of the world record, as she got one over her perennial rival Hassan. In the much-anticipated women’s 1500 final, it was a three-way battle between Kipyegon, Hassan, and Britain’s Laura Muir.
Entering into the final lap, the three favorites were all in contention to win however, Kipyegon, the 2016 Olympic champion pulled away over the course of the final lap to retain her title in an Olympic record of 3:53.11. Scotland’s Laura Muir finished second and The Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan took third.
A month later, Kipyegon defeated Hassan in another heated final to win the Diamond League at the Letzigrund Stadium in Zurich. She stopped the clock in 3:58.33, just a meter ahead of Hassan in 3:58.55.
1. Letesenbet Gidey
Ethiopian Long-distance runner Letesenbet Gidey takes our No 1 spot. She was simply on top gear all through the season, casting away any doubts about her potential to be one of the greatest runners in this era.
Gidey delivered a dizzying head-twister of a performance to take more than a minute off the previous women’s world half-marathon record at the Valencia Half Marathon, winning the race in 1:02:52. Her overall performance in Valencia has been well documented in my story “All hail Letesenbet Gidey, the Queen of African and World Running”.
In July, Gidey achieved another feat as she smashed the women’s 1000m record set by Hassan that had just stood for two days. She did it while running on the same Hengelo track where Hassan set her world record, always looked confident. For much of the race – which doubled as the Ethiopian trials – she churned out 72-second laps before storming home in a final lap of 63 seconds, despite having to weave between other runners, to finish in 29:1.03.
It adds to her collection the 15k record and 5k records she set in 2019 and 2020, making her one of the most outstanding athletes in long-distance running at the moment.
Gidey also added an Olympic medal to her laurel, placing 3rd in a final that was won by Hassan with Bahrain’s Kalkidan Gezahegne taking Silver.