AFRICA DAY: African sports heroes

By Sport Editor
THE history of the African continent is littered with historic and iconic moments which came through the liberation of most countries from colonial bondage.
As we celebrate Africa Day, Lawrence Trusida takes note of some of these landmark moments and achievements.
While May 25, 1963 remains one of Africa’s greatest days, 11 June 2010 is one of Africa’s iconic days when the first FIFA World Cup match was played on African soil with South Africa hosting the event.
The history of the Continent’s success in sport, however, goes back to the 1960s which not only saw 34 African countries gaining independence but also signaled the beginning of sporting excellence that would go on to illuminate the world.
Shambel Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia is the first black African Olympic gold medalist, after winning gold at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome while running barefoot and also retaining it at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
He became the first athlete to successfully defend an Olympic marathon title in world record times.
Ethiopia also gave Africa its first black female Olympic gold medalist when Derartu Tulu took to the podium at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 after pulling off a spectacular victory in the 10,000m final.
While Olympics are the World’s biggest games, football is recognised as the World’s most followed sport, and Africa has produced legends that include the midfield genius Austin “Jay Jay” Okocha, Didier Drogba, Roger Milla and the great goal scorer, Samuel Etoo.
George Weah who is now the Liberian President was the first and still the only African to win the World Footballer of the Year Award in 1995 ahead of greats such as Paulo Maldini, Jürgen Klinsmann and Romario.
Zimbabwe’s own, Peter Ndlovu, was the first African to play in the world’s most followed football league, when he signed for Coventry City in 1992 and he would leave in 2004 as the longest serving African player in English football, a record he still holds.
Calls have since been made for the Flying Elephant to be inducted into the English football hall of fame.
Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge is the first man to complete a marathon in under two hours and can stake his claim to being the greatest long distance athlete of all time.
His CV includes Olympic champion, 5000m World champion, Cross Country World junior champion and 5000m Olympic gold, alongside several big city marathon wins in London, Berlin and Chicago.
World Rugby legend, Tendai Mtawarira is universally known as ‘The Beast’ for his commanding performances on the pitch.
The Zimbabwe-born prop is the most capped prop in South Africa and Super Rugby history and capped his international career by leading South Africa to 2019 Rugby World Cup glory.
Kirsty Coventry who is now the Minister of Youth , Sport, Arts and Recreation is Africa’s most decorated Olympian of all time and has the joint most individual medals in women’s swimming in Olympic history.
She dominated world pools not only at the Olympics but also world championships and the Commonwealth games.
Time will not allow us to talk of Maria Mutola, Frankie Fredricks, Haile Gabrselassie, Makhaya Ntini, the Super Eagles and the Springboks to mention just a few.

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