Africa has long been the main force in distance running, with Western races traditionally the preferred hunting ground for the continent’s elite racers. This has taken a new turn as China’s running boom presents a new and lucrative route to glory for Africa’s athletes, particularly those from marathon powerhouses Kenya and Ethiopia.
In 2015, 134 marathons were staged in China, according to official records. In 2016, that figure stood at 328 and has been increasing at a rapid rate. Now the race is on for a Chinese marathon to be added to the Abbot World Marathon Majors list, with the Chengdu Marathon currently under consideration to join Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York City on the elite global series.
Sprinting in Africa
Africa is known for its natural endowment of strength, and the thrive to attain greater heights. With its recent achievements, international investors will look into the business and contribute their quota.
From another angle, the system is still faulty. Some of the problems facing African sports include Nepotism and corruption. Sports are seen as a lucrative activity that relaxes and entertains people, if other sectors are manipulated, sports should be in the exemption.
Also, with sports administration and scarcity of resources, insufficient resources are wrongly allocated. Thereby worsening the situation for sprinters, which the main reason is to make a living, managers should prioritize this first.
Africans should feel at home in Africa and not look forward to other countries’ sport as an alternative. The capital flight should be reduced if Africa wants to move its position higher.
Top Africans leading in China
Here is a count down of the five fastest African men in the distance by their personal best times in 2016:
1) Davidson Ezinwa
The 1992 Olympics silver-medalist crossed the finish line in a time of 9.94 seconds on July 4th, 1994 in Linz, Austria. Ezinwa also once ran a time of 9.91 seconds, which was not recorded due to doubtful wind conditions.
2) Seun Ogunkoya
Seun Ogunkoya posted a time of 9.92 seconds in Johannesburg on September 11, 1998 at the IAAF World Cup in Athletics. Finishing in second on that occasion, it marked a personal best time for the two-time African Championships gold champion and makes him the fourth-fastest African sprinter in the distance.
3) Ngonidzashe Makusha
Zimbabwe’s sprinter and long-jumper Ngonidzashe Makusha holds the national record for the 100 meters in the southern African country for a time of 9.89 seconds. He did so on June 10, 2011 in Des Moines, Iowa at the NCAA Division I Championships, where he also posted a national record in the long-jump with a leap of 8.40 meters.
4) Frank Fredericks
Namibian great Frank Fredricks posted three all-time best times that could have seen him earn second, third and fourth spots on this list, but going by his best time – that would be the 9.86 seconds he ran in Lausanne on July 3, 1996. The four-time Olympic silver medalist put Namibian athletics on the world map and in all, ran a sub-10 second time 27 times.
5) Olusoji Fasuba
The 31-year old holds the African record in the distance after running a time of 9.85 seconds on May 12, 2006 at the Doha Grand Prix. Not only does that make him the fastest man on the continent in the 100 meters, but ranks him as joint 13th-fastest in the world. That puts him firmly at number one on this list of the fastest African sprinters in the 100 meters to date.
Popular competitions in China and records
China is fast emerging as a major destination for African marathon runners who chase big prizes in increasingly high-profile races, such as the Zhengzhou International Marathon in Henan province.
With a hundred marathons to choose from, there is no shortage of ways to race around China. The marathon trend is booming and we can see many talented Chinese runners taking part in international championships. From beginner to advanced levels, some of the most challenging marathons in the world are held around the Chinese countryside.
The Guizhou Qiandongnon 100km Challenge is just one of the most arduous ultra marathons that running enthusiasts can train for. Iconic runs such as the Great Wall Marathon or the Beijing International, are a great way to travel around and get a glimpse into Chinese culture and heritage. From half marathons, such as the Yunnan Shuifu International, to fun runs, such as the Haikou International Beach Marathon, Sprinting is making a mark.
For 2021, the upcoming marathon events are the Jinshanling great Wall marathon on the 10th of April 2021, the Yancheng international marathon on the 18th of April 2021, and the Great Wall of China Marathon (GWCM) on the 1st of May 2021.
A new Dawn in China
In 2019, approximately 7.13 million people participated in major running sports events held in China. Major running sports event refers to all road running sports events with more than 800 participants (including marathons) and all cross-country running events with more than 300 participants certified by the Chinese Athletics Association.
China’s marathon industry grew by 20%, reaching a value of about US$20 billion, according to the China Athletics Association. More than 1,100 distance events were held in the country in 2017, of which 256 were hosted or co-hosted by the sport’s governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations. The total number of participants in these events reached 4.98 million.
Over the past 18 years, there has been a rise in the number of African runners taking part in sporting events – including football in China. With the increasing participation of Africa, the sprinting system will surely take a turn in the coming years. The only problem encountered by Africans is the change in weather, which is a hindrance to their practice time.
Increasingly, Africans are signing up with Chinese agencies to secure places in Chinese races keen to boost their global profiles by attracting the sports industry’s biggest names.
Africa has so much talent. Up-and-coming athletes who have not made a name for themselves in Europe find China as an alternative. This is boosting the level of competition in China. With the diversification and tension in the Africa-China relationship, sports are seen as a joining factor and a foundation for other opportunities.
What do you think?
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Orire Agbaje, studies Economics at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She love crunching digits. She is very cheerful, assertive and hard-working.