London 2012


Although it was the “Somali-born Londoner”, Mo Farah, who was the superstar of the Games with his 5,000/10,000m double, even eclipsing David Rudisha, Africa will be disappointed with its overall performance at London 2012.

African men’s overall gold medal total [7] failed to match their 2008 achievements (11 gold) and their overall total  (11) also fell from 16 in 2008

Kenya’s two men’s gold medals were a failure of their expectations and it was the first Games since Atlanta (1996) that Ethiopian men took no gold medal.

African women’s overall haul of 13 medals [3-G, 5-S, 5-B] equalled that in Beijing  (but there it took 5 gold). Ethiopia’s haul of 3 gold was its best ever. Kenyan women failed to emulate their 2008 performances, winning no gold at all.

Overall African women outperformed their male counterparts.

Summary Table by country


M           F


M          F


M          F


M          F

Kenya 2            0 1           3 3            2 6            5 11
Ethiopia 0            3 1           0 1            2 2            5 7
Algeria 1            0 0           0 0            0 1            0 1
Uganda 1            0 0           0 0            0 1            0 1
S. Africa 0            0 0           1 0            0 0            1 1
Botswana 0            0 1           0 0            0 1            0 1
Tunisia 0            0 0           1 0            0 0            1 1
Morocco 0            0 0           0 0            1 0            1 1
Total 4            3 3           5 4            5 11          13 24


800 metres

David Rudisha almost stole the Olympic show with his overwhelmingly dominating world record gold medal run. His 1m 40.91secs is his third 800 metres world record in just over two years and establishes him as the greatest 800m runner of all time.  It was one of he outstanding achievements of these Gamesand brought back memories of the 1,500 metres world records of Elliot (1960) and Bayi (1974).

A silver by 18 years old Nijel Amos (Botswana’s first Olympic medal) and a bronze by 17 years old Kenyan Timothy Kitum gave Africa its second Olympic clean sweep at the distance (a repeat of 2008). It was Africa’s (and Kenya’s) 4th Olympic 800 metres gold medal.

1,500 metres

Taoufik Makhloufi repeated Morceli’s 1996 gold for Algeria with a 1,500m victory, that attracted controversy (to say the least) surrounding his disqualifications (and subsequent reinstatement) following a perfunctory appearance in the 800m heats. His winning sprint also caught the eye – but his time 3.34.08 was far from sensational compared with Ngeny’s (2000) Olympic record of 3.32.07 or El Gerrouj (1998) 3.26.00 world record. It was Africa’s 7th Olympic 1,500 metres title.

3,000 metres steeplechase

Ezekiel Kemboi (8.18.50) repeated his 2004 victory – and bronze went to Abel Mutai (Kenya) (after the 2008 champion Kipruto fell with 700 metres to go). Kemboi’s eccentric finish, followed by a jig was almost a mirror image of his Daegu (2011) performance. Kemboi’s victory gave Kenya its tenth gold in the Steeplechase – 8th in succession since 1984, continuing its total domination of the event. Kemboi’s two Olympic and two IAAF World golds medals him as the most successful steeplechaser of all time.


It had been widely anticipated that the marathon gold would be a tussle between Kenya and Ethiopia. An early break by Kipsang after 6 kilometres reinforced this anticipation. He was well clear for thirty kilometres when Kirui (the double world champion) and Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) joined him, this trio well clear of the field. It was the Ugandan who made the surprise break with 4 kilometres to go. Kipsang’s early break had tired him and, although Kirui was in pursuit, Kiprotich led along the Mall to record Uganda’s second Olympic gold medal (after Akii-Bua, 1972). It was a unique marathon victory for Kiprotich and Uganda) as well as a second men’s clean sweep for Africa at London 2102)



5,000 metres

The race took place after the 10,000 metres. The 10,000 metres champion, Tirunesh Dibaba, was widely touted to repeat her Beijing double. History and her compatriot, though, were against her. Meseret Defar, the 2004 5,000m champion regained her best form and her sharpness to tail Dibaba, who set to win from the front after half the race.  Defar sprinted clear from within 200 metres to win in 15m 4.25 secs and deny Dibaba a feat that would have emulated only Viren’s defence of 5,000m/10,000m repeat double in the whole of Olympic history. Defar, twice world champion and twice world record holder had become twice 5,000 metres Olympic champion. In reality, her achievement should not have surprised anybody who knows her pedigree and past achievements. Vivian Cheruiyot, double world champion, beat Dibaba to the silver. The first six finishers were Ethiopian/Kenyan and Africa had scored its third women’s clean sweep of London 2012, its second in the Olympic women’s 5,000 metres. It was Africa’s (and Ethiopia’s) 3rd Olympic 5,000 metres tile (all in succession since 2004)

10,000 metres

Tirunesh Dibaba dominated the tactics of the 10,000m as well as the result. A strong challenge never materialised from the Kenyan trio. Cheruiyot ran in the shadows. Kipyego tried to make some running but both Kedane and Dibaba matched her stride for stride. Kedane took over but 600 metres from the tape, Dibaba assumed control with a lengthening stride and cadence in a characteristic move that took her home (30.20.7) from Kipyego (30.26.3). Cheryuiot took bronze. Africans filled the first five places and the clean sweep was its second of London 2012 – but its first in the Olympic women’s 10,000 metres. Dibaba had emulated Gebrselassie (1996/2000) and Bekele (2004 and 2008) – as well as Nurmi, Zatopek and Viren! It was Africa’s 4th Olympic women’s 10,000 metres gold (two each by Tulu and Dibaba, from Bekoji!).


The outcome of the marathon was in doubt till the closing stages, with Kenyans and Ethiopians, the obvious favourites, joined on the roads by Arkhipova.  Jeptoo proved the strongest Kenyan challenger in the final kilometres, though Tiki Gelana proved the more assertive towards the tape to regain the women’s marathon throne for Ethiopia. It was another gold medal (Africa’s 2nd at the women’s marathon) for the ‘town of runners’ – Bekoji – to add to that of her aunt, Fatuma Roba (1996) (and that of her coach, Gezahegne Abera, 2000). The lineage of Bikila and Wolde had been re-secured.



Overall, Africa has now won 46 men’s Olympic gold medals and 18 women’s Olympic gold medals.

  • There were 4 clean sweeps at London 2012
  • Men: 800 metres, marathon
  • Women 5,000 metres, 10,000 metres.

African-born runners (with Mo Farah included at 5,000/10,000 metres) took a ‘grand slam’ in the men’s distance races from 800metres to the marathon!

David Rudisha joins Aouita, Morceli, El Gerrouj, Gebrselassie and Bekele as the six African runners with the “RFBG” ‘Triple Crown’.

Bekele and Dibaba consolidate their position at the top of the AFRICAN ATHLETICS HALL OF FAME.