The 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang is finally here and there Eight African countries are competing . This means more African flags flew at the opening ceremony of this year’s Winter Olympics than ever before.
As one of the world’s hottest continents, Africa lacks the climate for winter sports such as skiing, bobsleigh and snowboarding.
But despite this disadvantage, competitors from a record number of nations (Nigeria, Eritrea, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, South Africa, Morocco and Togo) will be represented at Pyeongchang 2018. Most of the athletes will be breaking boundaries. These boundary-breakers could represent a changing look for the Winter Olympics, which, in its beginnings, was dominated by wealthy Nordic and Scandinavian countries.
#1 – Eritrea/Canada: Shannon Ogbani-Agbeda
There have been 22 previous editions of the Olympic Winter Games, which between them have welcomed nearly 30,000 athletes from around 100 different NOCs. None of those athletes has come from the African nation of Eritrea – until now.
Shannon Ogbani-Abeda’s long journey to the Olympic Winter Games began with an even longer journey made by his parents during the Eritrean War of Independence. Eritrea became an independent sovereign state in the early 1990s but Abeda’s parents, Ariam and Walday, had fled the troubles as teenagers during the 1980s. The pair eventually settled as refugees in the Canadian province of Alberta, and gave birth to Shannon Ogbani in 1996.
But persistence and dedication have brought their own reward. The 21-year-old is due to fulfil his Olympic dream when he competes in both the men’s slalom and giant slalom competitions at the Yongpyong Alpine Centre. He follows in the footsteps of other pioneering athletes from Africa, such as Morocco’s Adam Lamhamedi, who became the first-ever African to win a medal at a Winter Olympic event when he claimed super G gold at the Winter YOG in Innsbruck.
#2 Ghana/United States: Maame Biney
Of the key athletes showcase their amazing talents for Team USA, One of them, Maame Biney is a Ghanaian American. Maame came to the United States from when she was 5 years old and started skating when she was 6.
Biney made national headlines when she qualified in speedskating for her first Olympic team at the December 2017 track trials, becoming the first African-American woman to qualify for Team USA’s speedskating team. The video of the 18-year-old high school senior in the final qualifying race went viral and was watched more than five million times on Facebook.
“I am super honored to be able to be part of this, because I know that us African-American girls and women haven’t been able to be in this situation before,” she told HuffPost. “I’m really honored to inspire other women, African-American or any other race, to get out there and do what you can to succeed.”
Biney is also the youngest member of Team USA’s speedskating team. She turned 18 on Jan. 28, days ahead of the Opening Ceremony of the Games.
The 18 year old finished second in her first-ever Olympic race to advance for the semifinals of the 500-meter short track speedskating competition.
“Oh, geez!” the 18-year-old from Reston, Va., said. “That was very nerve-racking! My legs were like, woooo!”
#3 – Ghana: Akwasi Frimpong
With experience in a number of sports, Akwasi Frimpong is Ghana’s first athlete to compete in skeleton and the country’s second-ever Winter Olympian. He has said he hopes his appearance in the Games will boost winter sports in Ghana, which previously competed in the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
“My goal is to get the Ghana sport authorities behind our federation to support the development of winter sport in Ghana and prepare athletes towards the 2022 Beijing Winter Games and beyond,” Frimpong told ESPN.
“There is a lot of talent in Ghana and we need to utilize that in the winter sport,” he added.
Frimpong almost appeared in the 2012 Summer Olympics — in a different sport and for a different country. He has dual citizenship in Ghana and the Netherlands and was among the contenders to qualify for the Netherlands’ 100-meter relay team, but got injured and did not compete.
#4 Madagascar: Mialitiana Clerc
Mialitiana Clerc is the first Malagasy woman to take part in the Winter Olympics and the only athlete from her country to take part in this year’s event. Madagascar made its Winter Games debut in 2006, with male alpine skier Mathieu Razanakolona.
“I’m very honored to be the first woman from Madagascar to participate in the Winter Olympics,” she said Tuesday through a translator at the athletes’ village in PyeongChang, some 180 kilometers east of Seoul. “It’s just amazing to be here.”
Clerc, 16, was born in Madagascar, but at 1 year old, she was adopted by French parents. She learned skiing at age 3 in France. Her father, Stephane Clerc, is now her coach at the Olympics.
#5 Morocco/Canada: Adam Lamhamedi
22 year old Moroccan-Canadian Adam Lamhamedi made history when he became the first African to win gold at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Austria in 2012. Adam Lamhamedi was born on 22 April 1995 in Quebec City to a Moroccan father and a Canadian mother. He began skiing in childhood, winning his first competition at the age of eight. In 2011, he made the decision to compete on behalf of his father’s country rather than Canada, both internationally and locally on the provincial ski circuit in Quebec.
#6 Morocco/France: Samir Azzimani
Samir Azzimani is a Moroccan French Alpine and Nordic skier who is representing Morocco in the cross-country skiing competition. He was introduced to the sport at age five on a holiday camp to the French Alps. At first he disliked the snow and the cold, and having to carry skis and wear ski boots. After a few school holiday trips, he learnt how to ski and understood how much fun it could be. He switched from alpine skiing to cross-country skiing after the 2012/13 season. Initially he was looking for a sport to help him prepare physically to qualify in alpine skiing for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, until an injury ended his alpine Olympic ambitions.
#7,#8,#9 Nigeria/America: Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga
When Adigun, who in December earned a masters degree in exercise and health sciences and became a doctor of chiropractic, pitched Nigerian sports officials about starting a bobsled federation, they seemed a bit bewildered. “You don’t even have to be in Nigeria to be confused as to why three Nigerians who live in Texas are competing in the sport of bobsled,” she says.
All the members of the Nigerian bobsled team are former top-flight college sprinters with dual Nigerian-American citizenship.
#10 Nigeria: Simidele Adeagbo
Adeagbo is not only part of Nigeria’s first Winter Olympic team, but also the first Nigerian, African or black female athlete to compete in skeleton, a sport in which a competitor rides down an ice track on a sled, face-down.
Adeagbo was once a track star who was a two-time U.S. Olympic Trials finalist in the triple jump in 2004 and 2008. While she did not qualify back then, the 36-year-old athlete came out of her retirement from track and field to compete in skeleton.
“This is about breaking barriers in winter sports,” she told Nike, where she works as a marketing manager in Johannesburg, South Africa. “It’s about making history. And leaving a legacy. It’s about moving sport forward. That’s so much bigger than just me being an Olympian.”
#11 Kenya: Sabrina Simader
Sabrina Simader is the first alpine skier to compete at a Winter Olympics for Kenya. The 19-year-old is also the only delegate from the country at the Olympics this year, and she aims to make an impact.
“Because I’m a Kenyan, that makes me exotic and some people think I can’t ski well,” she told Reuters in January.
“At the beginning, people looked at me — OK, a black skier always gets looked at — but when your performances get better and you improve, you win them over,” she added.
Simader was born in Kenya and raised in Austria. She previously represented Kenya at the Winter Youth Olympics in 2016 and at the world skiing championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
#12 Togo: Mathilde-Amivi Petitjean
Mathilde-Amivi Petitjean was previously a member of France’s junior cross-country ski team, before switching to represent Togo, the country where she was born. Petitjean was born in Togo, to a Togolese mother which allowed her the opportunity to compete for the country. She was contacted by Togolese Ski Federation in March 2013 via Facebook to compete for the country at the Winter Olympics. Petitjean has lived the majority of her life in Haute-Savoie, France, where she learned to ski. She competed for France until her switch to compete for Togo.
#13 South Africa: Conor Wilson
21 year old Skier Connor Wilson is representing South Africa at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
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Yomif Kejelcha Has Set A New 1-Mile Indoor World Record
Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha on Sunday 3rd March set a new 1-mile indoor world record. The previous record was set in 1997 by Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj. Yomif Kejelcha finished at 3:47.01 to break the previous record of 3:48.45. Three weeks earlier, Kajelcha came close to breaking the record but missed by hundredth of a second with a time of 3:48.46.
3:47.01 NEW INDOOR MILE WORLD RECORD!@OregonPJT
— RunnerSpace.com (@RunnerSpace_com) March 3, 2019
The 21-year old runner trumped the former record by 1.44 seconds in Boston. Yomif Kejelcha who is a two-time champion of 3000m came to Boston with the intention of breaking the 1500m and 1-mile world record. Although he missed the former, his split time of 3:31.25 is the third-best all-time indoor behind Tefera and El Guerrouj.
Yomif Kejelcha’ lap performance at the race
The race began with Sowinski, the indoor bronze medalist leading. However, Kajelcha got his big break from the pack after the first 409 meters. The indoor 1-mile record is one of the longest in tracks and field. Yomif Kejelcha cruised through the 809m in 1:52, leaving no doubt about his intention. He hit the bell at 3:18.54 and ran a time of 28.47 in the last lap to break the 22-year old record. Second-placed Johnny Gregorek also put himself second on all-time America indoor list with 3:49.98.
After crossing the finish line, Yomif Kejelcha did not hide his joy. The moment the result was displayed on the scoreboard he did a series of celebratory jumps amid the cheering crowd. This was a clear contrast to his mood after the Millrose Games miss on February 9. Yomif Kejelcha current record shows great improvement from his 2018 season.
Other Africans that hold world records
Africans fare well in the track and fields and Yomif Kejelcha is another addition to the record book. Both in the male and female categories, a large number of Africans hold the world record. In the indoor men’s category, Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele holds both the 2000 meters, Two miles, and 5000 meters world record set in 2007, 2008 and 2004 respectively. This also makes him the highest African world record holder in the indoor long distance category.
In the female category, Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba has no rival in the long distance race. Dibaba holds the world record for the 1500 meters, 1-mile, 2000 meters, 3,000 meters, Two miles, and 5,000 meters. However, her most recent record was in 2,000 meters in 2017.
Nigerian Makes History At The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)
Kamaru Usman made history on the 3rd of March 2019 by becoming the first African UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) Champion. Usman, 31, achieved the feat by beating the defending champion, Tyron Woodley in Las Vegas. Woodley became the champion in 2016 and has defended the title four times before his loss to the Nigerian fighter. After his crowning, Kamaru Usman said,
“Can’t nobody handle me? I’ve been wanting this fight, and I’ll be honest, I might be the best striker in the world. But when it comes to mixing this stuff up, I’m the best welterweight on the planet right now.”
The win extends Kamaru Usman’s win in the mixed martial arts (MMA) to 14 while preserving his unbeaten record. Usman also told the press in a post-match conference how he has been walking around in a supportive boot after suffering a fracture.
How it happened at the T-Mobile Arena octagonal cage
The UFC combines boxing, jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, and wrestling. In the opening stages, Kamaru was a lot cautious in his attack. He attempted a couple of takedowns which Woodley repelled. Usman finally tamed Woodley with strings of punches and dropping elbows.
The judges unanimously scored the fight 50-44, 50-44, and 50-45 in favor of Kamaru Usman. His mother was the first to hug him after the announcement. Usman celebrated his victory with his daughter in the ring amidst the cheering spectators. He held her to his chest and kissed her cheeks.
Kamaru Usman’s childhood and career
Kamaru Usman was born in Nigeria and spent part of his childhood in Auchi, Benin City. He migrated with his parents to Arlington, Texas as a child. His wrestling origin goes back to his high school days in Texas. Usman took traces of his origin with him into the ring by wearing a mouth guard bearing the Nigerian green and white color. In the post-match conference, he greeted the journalists in Arabic and switched to pidgin.
“Nigeria, I have told them, we would do it, I told them we never fail. And we have done it today”.
Today Kamaru Usman bears the moniker, the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’. However, he is not the first to bear that nickname. Other Nigerians like Christian Okoye, the former Kansas City Chiefs American Football and Samuel Peter, the former professional boxer earned that nickname during their career. Usman also invited these two to his match.
Francis ‘The Predator’ Ngannou
Kamaru Usman is the reigning champion in UFC welterweight. However, he is not the only African revered in the MMA. The Cameroonian heavyweight fighter, Francis Ngannou has also gained a reputation as ‘The Predator’. Ngannou lost a title fight against Miocic on January 20, 2018. However, he has won his last two fights by either a KO or TKO.
This Tanzanian Woman’s Soccer Video Has Gone Viral, Even President Trump Thinks It’s Amazing
Hadhara Charles Mjeje has a viral video that is a rave on the Internet. Mjeje displays her amazing soccer ball juggling skills in an 84-second video to the admiration of onlookers. Mjeje doesn’t need a fancy sports kit to execute 154 moves, rather, a skirt and flip-flops are enough. The 29-years old attributes her skills to over six years of practice rather than black magic as some speculate. In a video with Ruptly (a German news agency) the mother of two sons said,
“Some people think that I use black magic but I don’t. There is nothing in this ball. I use my talent which I have developed for six years of practice. It is pure talent, not black magic.”
Akin Sawyerr was the first person to share the viral video on Twitter on February 16, 2019. Sawyerr captioned the video, “Talent is evenly distributed, opportunity isn’t”. The video shows Mjeje juggling the ball with all her body parts including her head, neck, shoulder, chest, hand, knees, and legs. The post now has over 120,000 retweets and 390,000 likes.
Talent is evenly distributed, opportunity isn’t pic.twitter.com/bWvFVLlyHN
— Akin Sawyerr (@AkinSawyerr) February 16, 2019
The Journey So Far
So far, the video has received over 9 million views including an endorsement from the United States President, Donald Trump. Trump simply commented ‘Amazing’ as he retweeted Sawyerr’s Saturday evening tweet.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2019
Mjeje has taken her keepy-uppy skills to different countries including Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, and South Africa. She now has a place in Malawi where she charges approximately $4 for two-minute performance. According to her, the money provides for her sons and pays off other family bills.
Piers Morgan, a prominent UK TV personality also shared the video while hailing it as ‘Brilliant’.
Mjeje’s Role Models and Dreams
While many are already comparing Mjeje to some of the great players in Europe she reminds us that some of them are her role models. She said,
“I admire players from different teams such as Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Ronaldinho.”
Mjeje wishes to one day become a professional footballer like her role models. While many pour out their admiration for her incredible skills, not all Americans seem to be happy with the president’s retweet. They prefer the president focus on fixing the country rather than tweeting about random football videos.
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