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African Athletes Win 40 Olympic Medals


African runners swept the Men's Marathon race Sunday on the last day of the 29th Olympic Games in China. In all, athletes from more than a dozen African countries won medals in events ranging from running and football to swimming and kayaking. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from Beijing.

Kenya's Samuel Wansiru and Morocco's Jaouad Gharib Sunday broke the 24-year-old Olympic record in the Men's Marathon race while Ethiopia's Tsegay Kebede came in third.

Kenya was one of the most successful African teams, winning five gold medals and 14 medals in all. Kenya excelled in long distance running events but also took gold and silver in the women's 800 meters.

The head of the Kenyan Committee in Beijing, David Okeyo, noted that the team performed much better than at the previous Olympics in Athens, Greece and said this was due to its training program for young athletes.

"Our youth program has really increased and it's really helping. It's a very good buildup toward these kinds of Games and the Championships," said Okeyo.

Kenya is to host the Africa Championship games in two years in Nairobi. Okeyo says in anticipation, Kenya is working hard on the sprints and field events.

Ethiopia also did well in the long distance races. It won four gold medals, in the men's and the women's 5,000- and 10,000-meters, and bronze in the men's marathon on Sunday.

Nigeria won the silver medal in men's football, or soccer, losing to Argentina one-nil, in a tough match Saturday in Beijing.

Nigeria team spokesman Tony Nezianya said Nigeria also expected to do better in athletics, especially the relay events.

"We had expected that we would have performed much, much better than we have done but on the whole we are not totally disappointed," said Nezianya.

He noted that the football team was undefeated until the final game. And he expressed pleasure over Nigeria's bronze medals in the women's long jump and four-by-100-meter relay.

Zimbabwe took one gold and three bronze medals in women's swimming, all by Kirsty Coventry in the 100- and 200-meter events. Team leader Thabani Gonye called it a major accomplishment given the small size of the Zimbabwean team.

"We only brought a team of 13 athletes, for swimming, track and field, cycling, rowing and tennis," said Gonye. "So when we look in terms of people that we have brought we feel as a nation we put up a fairly commendable performance."

He added that two younger members placed fourth in the men's long jump and 200-meter race and said he expected further improvements as the younger athletes mature.

Other gold medal winners included Cameroon, in the women's triple jump, and Tunisia, in the men's 1500-meter swimming (freestyle) race.

Besides Morocco's second-place finish in the men's marathon, South Africa won a silver medal in the men's long jump. Sudan took silver in the men's 800-meter race. And Algeria took silver in men's Judo.

Bronze medal-winners included Algeria in women's Judo, Egypt in men's Judo, Morocco in the women's 800-meter race, Mauritius in boxing and Togo in kayaking.

Kenya's Okeyo, like most of the participants, praised China for its organization of the Games.

"It's one of the best organized Olympic Games that I have attended in terms of accommodation, in terms of transportation and in terms of hospitality in general. I think they have done a good job. Facilities were first class," added Okeyo.

They said Britain's organizing committee will be hard-pressed to equal the Chinese feat at the next Olympic Games in London in four years.


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