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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Africa off to Commonwealth Games Medal Hunt Amid Controversies

Thousands of athletes from Africa and around the world continue arriving in India’s New Delhi city as the clock ticks ever closer to the 19th edition of the Commonwealth Games slated for 3rd October.

Poor quality air, racism, filthy accommodation, terrorist threats, sex slavery, child labour, delays and corruption allegations are just but some of a plethora of concerns that have been raised as the world plans to converge in India’s political and cultural capital, Delhi, for the 19th edition of the Commonwealth Games.

Some countries have delayed their arrival at the games until conditions improve, while some of the world’s top athletes like 100m record holder Usain Bolt, his compatriot Asafa Powell, 800m World record holder David Rudisha of Kenya, Caster Semenya of South Africa among others have already pulled out of the October 3-14 multi-sports spectacle.

A dark cloud of uncertainty also clogs the minds of many on whether the games will actually kick off.

Africa will once again be aiming to put a strong showing with perennial medal hunters Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria expected to lead other 19 African countries to glory in Delhi.

Kenya has sent a fairly strong team, both in track and field with the likes of Steeplechase champion Ezekiel Kemboi, former World 5,000m champion Eliud Kipchoge, World Junior 800 metres silver medalist Gladys Cherono Koech and 20-kilometres race walk hopefuls Grace Wanjiru and David Kimutai to lead the team which also includes a boxing, rugby and swimming team.

However, many elite Kenyan athletes like World 800m record holder David Rudisha (fatigue) have pulled out of the event. Other Kenyan athletes who wont grace the 19th edition of the Commonwealth include Janeth Jepkosgei, the defending women’s 800m champion from Melbourne four years ago who has alluded her absence to injury, Africa 5000m Champion Edwin Soi (injury), 2007 World marathon champion Luke Kibet, world 10,000m champion Linet Masai and Olympic 1,500 metres champion Asbel Kiprop who also decided to give the games a wide berth citing fatigue.

Without Ethiopia, Bahrain, USA, Morocco and Qatar, Kenya has high medal hopes in middle and short distance races.

South Africa's two world 800m champions Caster Semenya (women) and Mbulaeni Mulaudzi (men) have also pulled out of the Commonwealth Games. The absence of these two household names in the South African athletics lineup will greatly hamper the nations chances of a medal haul. A late decision will also have to be made on whether Olympic long jump silver medalist Godfrey Khotso Mokoena will be able to compete. Mokoena has not trained for six weeks. Scans conducted by South Africa’s chief medical officer Shuaib Manjra revealed that Semenya had a back injury.

Nigerian officials have set their sights on the African crown inspite of fielding a team bereft of sprints pin-up Olusoji Fasuba, who won silver in Melbourne 2006.

However, they will be banking on the likes of triple jumper Tosin Oke, gold medallist at the African Championships, the multi-talented Blessing Okagbare and their 400m hurdles national record holder Ajoke Odumosu to lead the medal hunt.

Nigeria will compete in track and field, boxing, weightlifting, wrestling, special sports and table tennis.

In the 2006 edition in Melbourne Australia, South Africa finished as Africa’s best team and fifth overall with 12 gold, 13 sliver and 13 bronze, Kenya was second in Africa and 10th overall with 6 gold, 5 silver and 7 bronze while Nigeria finished placed 12th with four gold, six silver and 7 bronze medals.

Other African countries that will be sending athletes to the Commonwealth include Ghana, Gambia, Botswana, Uganda, Lesotho, Mauritius, Cameroon, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Swaziland, Seychelles and debutants Rwanda, which will be making its first Commonwealth Games appearance after being admitted to the Commonwealth of Nations in November 2009.

Interesting Facts

•    The event is held every four years and only Commonwealth (former British colonies) are eligible to participate
•    The event was first held in 1930 under the title of the British Empire Games in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
•    The Commonwealth is headed by Queen Elizabeth II
•    There are currently 54 members of the Commonwealth of Nations, and 71 teams participate in the Games.
•    The 2014 event will be held in Glasgow Scotland
•    There are a total of 31 sports (with two multi-disciplinary sports) and a further 7 para-sports which are approved by the Commonwealth Games Federation.
•    Only six teams have attended every Games : Austarlia, Canada, England, New Zealand, Scottland and Wales. Highest scorers from these are Australia in ten Games, England in seven and Canada in one
•    The 1942 and 1946 Games were not held due to WW II
•    Cricket has been played in only one of the Commonwealth Games, in 1998, Kuala Lampur
•    United Kingdoms has hosted the game five times, Australia and Canada four times each, and New Zealand thrice. Auckand (New Zealand) and Edinburgh (United Kingdom) are the only cities to have hosted the Games twice
•    Willi Wood, a lawn bowler from Scotland, UK, is the first competitor to have competed in seven Commonwealth Games from 1974 - 2002

And That's thesteifmastertake!!