Deji Ogeyingbo is our senior writer from Nigeria. Now in graduate school at the University of Georgia, Deji has made some pretty bold predictions for the athletes of the African continent. What do you think of his predictions?
Bold Predictions for African Athletics in 2024
We’ve just witnessed an unforgettable year for African athletics, with the East Africans running outrageous times in the marathon, outstanding performances at the world championships in Budapest, and historic contributions by its stars in the Diamond League and other continental tour events.
As we enter 2024 — an Olympic year, no less — we deliver six bold predictions for the next 12 months of African athletics.
Kelvin Kiptum to break the sub-two-hour marathon mark.
Is this the year we finally see a Sub-two-hour marathon? It seems like a broken record, but Eliud Kipchoge showed us what was humanly possible, albeit with the aid of a phalanx of elite distance runners set out in exquisite formation, one which made his 1:59:40 not sanctioned by World Athletics. Still, it showed us what is possible.
Since that race in Austria, Kipchoge has lowered the official world record to 2:01:09 in Berlin in 2022, but rather more sterling is the new kid on the block, Kelvin Kiptum, lowering it last year.
Kiptum’s journey in the marathon world throughout 2023 has been nothing short of extraordinary. In only his third marathon, Kiptum outpaced the previous record by an astounding 34 seconds at the Chicago Marathon last October in a stunning time of two hours and 35 seconds.
The Kenyan not only shattered the men’s marathon world record but now aims to achieve an unprecedented milestone: to become the first man to break the two-hour barrier in the event.
Kelvin Kiptum, Chicago Marathon 2023, photo by Kevin Morris
Based on the current world record data, a runner as extraordinary as Kipchoge will demand the world’s patience, with an estimated time of November 2031.
The statistics present us with a choice. Either we look to a runner in the mold of Kipchoge (which Kiptum seems to be like) and expect the official sub-2 breakthrough in 2031, or we hold onto the hope of a seemingly impossible runner X to emerge and achieve this in the next 12 months.
With Kiptum set to run in Rotterdam in April 2024, there is a strong indication he might just lower the time he set a few months back. This time, we hope he takes off 36s or more of his current world record.
Marie Josee Ta Lou to win the women’s 100m at the Paris Olympics.
Since making her Olympic debut in Rio in 2016, Marie Josee Ta Lou has suffered many heartbreaks. The nearly woman, as she’s fondly called. At 35, she’s not getting younger, and this year’s Olympics could potentially be her swansong after she missed out on the podium in Rio and Tokyo.
To date, Ta Lou has three fourth-place finishes and a fifth-place finish at the Olympics. For an athlete who is as dominant as Ta Lou on the sprinting scene, we are predicting that she will finally snag a medal to add to her collections.
Marie-Josée Ta Lou Wins the Women’s 100m with a time of 10.97 at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Rome/Florence, Italy on 2 June 2023, photo by Matthew Quine for Diamond League AG
Ta Lou came unstuck last year at the World Championships as she sought the ever-elusive Gold in the 100m/200m/4x100m, despite having one of the best years for a sprinter. Getting back to reckoning and competing amongst the best won’t be all that difficult as she seems to age like fine wine.
Tobi Amusan to break the 12s mark in the women’s 100m Hurdles
2023 was a stark contrast to the previous year for Nigerian hurdler Tobi Amusan. The World Record holder in the 100m Hurdles shocked the world when she ran a staggering 12.12s and went on to win the 2022 world title.
Amusan started the 2023 season on a shaky note but soon got into her groove mid-season. Despite her doping-related issue, the Nigerian was still able to make it to last year’s world championships in Budapest, in which she placed 6th.
Tobi Amusan takes the 100m hurdles, photo by Deji Ogeyingbo
Still, the double Commonwealth Games Champion finished her season on a good note, clocking a Season’s Best of 12.33s. With the likes of Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, Kendra Harrison, and Nia Ali all potentially pushing her to reach new heights in 2024, the race to win the Olympic Gold could see either of them break the sub-12 barrier.
If that happens and Amusan becomes the woman to break the sub-12 sec barrier, she will undoubtedly become one of the greatest athletes in the history of the event. Perhaps also add an Olympic Gold to complete the collection of medals she has won in her career.
Eliud Kipchoge to become the first man to win three Olympic marathon Gold.
Over the past few years, success in the men’s marathon has been benchmarked by Eliud Kipchoge. The Kenyan continues to transcend the world of marathon running and has set his sights on winning a third Olympic Gold at this year’s Olympics in Paris.
Eliud Kipchoge, the greatest marathoner of all times, photo by NN Running Team
Only three men in Olympic history have managed to secure consecutive marathon victories: Ethiopia’s Abebe Bikila, who triumphed in 1960 and 1964, East Germany’s Waldemar Cierpinski, who claimed victory in 1976 and 1980, and Kipchoge, who achieved this feat in 2016 and 2021. However, no athlete has ever clinched three consecutive Olympic marathon titles. This particular goal serves as the ultimate driving force behind Kipchoge’s ambitions.
Kipchoge has claimed 12 marathon majors in his career, which has earned him legendary status, but winning in Paris will take it to new heights.
Olympic heartbreak for Akani Simbine
At some point, Akani Simbine had the enviable record of being the only sprinter currently to have made the final of every major championship since the 2016 Olympic Games. That run came to an end at last year’s world championships when he false-started in the semis of the men’s 100m. As hard as it seems to be, Simbine still hasn’t snagged a global title (if you don’t count the Commonwealth Games as one)
Ferdinand Omanyala and Akani Simbine, African Champs, photo by Deji Ogeyingbo
This year offers the South African another opportunity to get things right in Paris. The pool of sprinters who are vying for the title has increasingly gone up the roof. Even on the continent, Simbine used to be the undisputed King, but more recently, he has been usurped by the likes of Ferdinand Omanyala and Letsile Tebogo.
One aspect that you can’t fault Simbine for is his incredible level of consistency. Paris offers him another chance at redemption, but can right the wrong of past championships by finally getting on the podium? His chances are slim, though.
Letsile Tebogo to win double Olympic Gold in Paris
Of the many of our predictions this year, this seems to be the most audacious. How can a boy who is only beginning to find his feet on the global stage become a double Olympic Champion? Truth is if there is any sprinter who can take on Noah Lyles in both the 100m/200m in Paris, then it’s Letsile Tebogo.
Letsile Tebogo, World Athletics Championships
August 19-27, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris
The Botswanan has taken the world by storm, and after winning a Silver and Bronze at last year’s world championships, it can only get better for him. I have written about how his career seems to have taken the trajectory of Usain Bolt, who fans began to take note of in the 2008 season, shortly before the Beijing Olympics.
It might seem a bit far-fetched, but the possibility of it happening isn’t impossible. Tebogo is the real deal, and this might just be his year!