This is the first of two features on the Top 10 male African athletes of 2022. Deji Ogeyingbo gives us a view of these top elite athletes from the great African continent.
Top 10 male African athletes in 2022 (10-6)
Having recently revealed our Top 10 female African athletes in 2022, attention will now shift to the male as we do a breakdown of our Top 10 male Athletes in Africa for this year.
The past year was undoubtedly rewarding for African male athletes. From the African Championships in Mauritius to the World Championships in Oregon and the Diamond League circuit, most of these athletes have distinguished themselves from the rest of the pack in an outstanding manner.
So, who has done enough to merit a place in our ranking? Find out as we begin the countdown with Part 1 of the series featuring Nos. 10 to 6.
10. Joseph Fahnbulleh
Since storming into the limelight in 2021, Joseph Fahnbulleh has earned a reputation for himself as one of the sprinters with the best top-end speed in the sport. The Liberian use that signature to make up for his not-so-good start, but for a sprinter to succeed at the top level, finding a balance is key.
Still, Fahnbulleh has found a way of mixing and matching it with the biggest names. After becoming the only African sprinter to make the men’s 200m final at the Tokyo Olympics, he went into his final year as a student of the Florida Gators with so much confidence, one which provided him unprecedented success.
The sprinter won the double at the NCAA finals. His first came over the 100m as he clocked a Personal Best of 10.00s. Tennessee freshman Favour Ashe was second in 10.08. Less than 45 mins after winning the 100m, Fahnbulleh went on to claim the 200m title at Hayward Field, finishing in 19.83 ahead of Matthew Boling of Georgia. It was the second time he was winning the title.
Fahnbulleh took that form into the World Championships in Oregon as he opted to compete in the 200m final alone. When he won his heat 20.12 and finished second in his semifinal in 19.92, there was great optimism that he would get on the podium and become the first Liberian to win a medal at that level.
In one of the most anticipated 200-meter races of all time at the World Championships, Florida and Liberian sprinter Joseph Fahnbulleh clocked a 19.84, finishing 4th in the World in 2022. Just 0.04 seconds off a podium finish, Fahnbulleh improved on his fifth-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics in the 200m. Coming off the turn, Fahnbulleh closed down the back half of the field but couldn’t track down the trio of Americans in the top-three spots.
Fahnbulleh went on to make his Diamond League debut in Monaco after turning Professional. He also ran in Lausanne and Brussels before ending his season on a high at the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting in Zagreb, capping his season with one final win to celebrate his 21st birthday in style.
9. Hugues Fabrice Zango
When Hugues Fabrice Zango broke the world indoor record in the Triple Jump in 2021, there was a feeling he was surely going to win laurels at subsequent major championships. Over a decade of competing at the top level, he has transformed from being a competitor to a significant contender.
Zango took Bronze at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, his country’s first podium finish at the event. Afterwards, at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021, Zango, who had just finished studying for his PhD in Electrical engineering, leapt his way into Burkinabe hearts with his nation’s first-ever Olympic medal.
2022 promised big things, and he duly delivered. This year, Zango’s first major quest was defending his African title in Mauritius. There at the Cote D’Or Stadium, he leapt to a mark of 17.34m. There was little doubt in his chances of taking Gold in the Island nation as he had dominated the event on the African continent, but what was more important was winning Gold in Oregon.
In the absence of USA’s Christian Taylor, Zango was one of the favourites to win. However, Portugal’s Pedro Pichardo would eventually emerge tops, with Zango coming second with a season’s best mark of 17.55m. It was an upgrade from the Bronze he won in Doha in 2019.
Zango then went on to compete at a couple of Diamond League meets and Continental Gold tours, with his best result coming at the Memorial van Damme in Brussels, in which he reached 17.409m. He ended his season with a victory at the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting in Zagreb.
8. Letsile Tebogo
So much was said about the precociousness of teenage sensation Letsile Tebogo coming into the season. The Botswanan had won the World Junior 100m title in Nairobi in 2021, and there were expectations that he would begin to etch a name for himself in the world of global sprinting and take up the mantle of the waning Isaac Makwala as the figurehead of sprinting in the South African nation.
Tebogo opened his season over the 400m with a 46.09s clocking in Francistown. For an athlete whose signature events were the 100m/200m, the time was astonishing as it laid the ground for what was to come in the season.
At the African Championships in Mauritius, Tebogo was a class apart from the rest of the field as, despite the pouring rain, he still comfortably won his first African title in an easy manner.
Perhaps his biggest achievement on the world stage this year came at the World Championships in Oregon. Making his debut, he broke the then-U20 record in the 100m with his time of 9.94 as he also handed a defeat to former world champion Yohan Blake. It was a moment of pride for him. However, a poor race strategy in the semifinal saw him crash out.
Running at the World Juniors for the second time, Tebogo smashed his own U20 world record, clocking 9.91 in the 100m on his way to winning gold at the 2022 World Athletics U20 Championships in Cali, Colombia.
What made the win all the more interesting was that he could have gone even faster as he was coasting through the final 25m, immediately drawing comparisons to Jamaican track legend Usain Bolt who celebrated early when he won the first of his eight Olympic gold medals at Beijing 2008 in a then world record time of 9.69 seconds.
Although his mission in Cali was to win the world U20 200m title, one in which he lost to Nigeria’s Udodi Onwuzurike in 2021, Tebogo once again came unstuck as Israel’s Blessing Akawasi Afrifah pushing him to the limit with both clocking 19.96 (-0.1m/s). Tebogo settled for Silver.
Tebogo’s statement performance this year certainly established him as one of the most exciting prospects in track and field – not only because of the ease with which he appeared to pull away from the other competitors but also because of how he makes the sports look easy. 2023 will surely be an exciting year for Botswanan.
7. Joshua Cheptegei
Since Joshua Cheptegei hit the global athletics scene in 2018 when he won two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in the 5,000 and 10,000m races. With an international resume that includes multiple world records and Olympic titles, this year was mainly about adding to his ever-growing status as one of the greatest long-distance runners of all time.
The Ugandan started this season slowly as he prepares for World Athletics Championships in Oregon. In his only 5,000m race, he won the Friday night session of the Pre Classic in 12 minutes, 57.99 seconds, which has him ranked eighth in the world this season going into the champs.
The world record holder was on a mission to defend the 10,000m title he won in Doha in 2019 and potentially double by snagging the men’s 5000m title. It wasn’t going to be an easy ride.
Having controlled most of the race from halfway in Eugene, Cheptegei hit the front again at the sound of the bell and stayed there. The fastest man in history at 5000m and 10,000m was not going to relinquish the title he toiled to gain in Doha three years ago.
Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega moved on to his shoulder down the back straight and looked set to pounce with 200m to go, but as Cheptegei led round the final bend and into the finishing stretch, the world indoor 3000m champion had nothing in the tank paving the way for the Ugandan to take the win in 27:27.43.
Cheptegei became only the fourth man to win back-to-back 10,000m world titles, following in the footsteps of Ethiopians Haile Gebrselassie, Kenenisa Bekele, and Britain’s Mo Farah. The Tokyo Olympic champion also finished ninth over the 5000m in Oregon. He will now set his sights on the 2023 season as he would look to defend his title in Budapest.
Did You Know?
Joshua studied literature at university and adds: “Literature has been my passion. I love reading books.” He is also an Assistant Superintendent of Police in the Ugandan Police.
6. Ferdinand Omanyala
It was a year of mixed fortunes for Ferdinand Omanyala. More highs than lows if you are breaking it down into the nuances. But more importantly, this was the year in which he etched his name as the Number one sprinter in Africa.
In truth, his progression to the top of African sprinting all started late last year when he broke Akani Simbine’s African Record by clocking 9.77; it was in 2022 he became a household name as he took a stranglehold of the men’s 100m by winning when it mattered most.
His first big race of the season took him to Germiston, South Africa, where he squared up against Akani Simbine. It was a race in which he laid down the gauntlet of what was to come as he comfortably defeated the South African in a time of 9.98s.
It was with that form they took their rivalry to the African Championships in Mauritius. Simbine was the defending champion, while Omanyala was the contender. The race was keenly contested this time around as it delivered a spectacle with millions watching across the continent. Both sprinters were tied at the end as they clocked 9.93s, with the Kenyan giving the nod, having nipped it by three thousand of a second.
Hoping to take that form to the world championship in Oregon, Omanyala began preparations for the global championships as he looked to become the first African to make it to the podium in the men’s 100m. However, he would not see his dream materialize. A Visa hiccup meant he got to the championships less than 24 hours before his heat. Still, he managed to get into the semifinals.
Not to be deterred by that setback, Omanyala picked up the pieces and jetted off to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. There, he was to come up against a familiar foe in Simbine. In the final, he became the first ever Kenyan in 60 years to win the Commonwealth Games 100m title after blistering through the final in a time of 10.02s to dethrone his South African rival.
Although he couldn’t make his debut in the Diamond League this year, 2023 offers him the opportunity to get it underway and compete favourably at the world championships in Budapest.