With the ongoing Libyan civil war and famine in the Horn, it is good to remember that there are plenty of positive things coming out of the African continent. And not only things which show that “Africa is the future” (although indeed it is…), but also things that show that there are many ways in which the present is African (and it has been so for a while!).
Last week provided us with two important reminders of one thing at which African countries – most notably Kenya and Ethiopia – excel: long-distance running.
First, last Saturday The Prince of Asturias Award for Sport was announced, and it went to Haile Gebrselassie, according to the jury,
for his sporting and human excellence. Considered the best distance runner of all time, his own people called him “Naftanga, the chief”. Raised on a farm, he had to travel twenty kilometres each day to school, a circumstance that served as his training and influenced the way he runs: with his left arm crooked as if still holding his schoolbooks. He always ran the most demanding of races with a permanent smile on his face. Right up to the end of his career, he has been a myth, challenging his own legend. The athlete is also involved in humanitarian and mediation work in the many conflicts that have raged for years in Ethiopia.
And then on Sunday, the 2011 World Athletics Championships concluded in Dageu (South Korea). This is the final standing at the medal table:
It is not very often that one sees an African country coming third in world standings, only behind the US and Russia.
As well as the silver medal won by South Africa’s Caster Semenya (about whom this blog wrote one of its firsts posts), and Botswana’s first gold medalist, Amantle Montsho, Ethiopia and, especially Kenya, had an impressive performance.
Below are other images capturing the triumphs of these athletes: