African continent make their presence felt at Tokyo 2020
Clinch 63 medals in total, including 21 gold; Algeria led the show with 12 medals29 Sep 2021
THE CHAMP: Raoua Tlili of Tunisia poses next to the digital scoreboard showing her World record in the women's shot put F41 at Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
ⒸJoel Marklund / OIS
The participation in the Paralympic Games in Tokyo was a test for African countries. The COVID-19 pandemic made things difficult for athletes from the continent as their preparations were disrupted due to limited resource amid the lockdown.
Despite the odds, most of the National Paralympic Committees (NCPs) in the region managed to field their strong contingents for Tokyo 2020 and they bagged a total of 63 medals, including 21 gold. At Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, the African countries altogether won 97 medals including 36 gold.
In Tokyo 2020, Algeria led the tally with 12 medals, followed by Tunisia (11), Morocco (11), and Nigeria (10). Interestingly, all the four countries, along with South Africa finished with four gold apiece.
Some of the African athletes also set records - World, Paralympic Games, and continental - as they achieved their best at the toughest and most prestigious competition for Para athletes.
Walid Ktila and Tlili Raoua of Tunisia, and South Africa’s Ntando Mahlangu won two gold medals each. Raoua emerged as the most successful African sportsperson in Tokyo as she broke World records in women's shot put and discus throw F41.
“I am very excited to beat a World record that was previously set by my opponent at the World Para Athletics Grand Prix in March in Tunis during the year. But I took it back and I am very satisfied of my performance," said Raoua after her triumph.
Algeria's Safia Djelal set a World record in women's shot put F57 with a throw of 11.29m but settled for fifth place in the women's discus throw F57.
Ktila won gold in men's 100m T34 with a time of 15.01sec and men's 800m T34 in 1:45.50s, adding another double to his array of gold from London 2012 and Rio 2016, making him the most successful athlete from Africa in recent times.
“I am hyper happy now. I worked hard to achieve this. Getting two gold medals at the Paralympic Games is an honour for me and my country,” said Ktila, adding that, he was really desperate to get the 800m title under his belt as he had been eyeing the title for a while. “It’s a different victory as this is in the 800m. Strength, energy, tactics are different," said Ktila after his victory.
"I just love doing what I do, and I love the sport. I love to practice and getting better times. That’s the secret of my success,” he added.
Morocco too achieved the greatest performance in its history as the country finished 30th in the standings. Abdeslam Hili won in the mens’s 400m T12 with a time of 47.59s, eclipsing the previous best record of 47.79s.
Nigeria’s powerlifter Bose Omolayo won gold in the women’s under 79kg with a World record lift of 141kg. Compatriot Flora Ugunnwa too clinched gold in javelin F54 to retain her Rio 2016 title. Nigeria’s star veteran athlete Lucy Ejike also added another bronze to her illustrious powerlifting career with a lift of 130kg in the women’s 61kg.
South Africa won seven medals of which two gold were bagged by their star athlete Ntando Mahlangu. The 19-year-old, who is a record holder in the men’s 200m T61, sped to the finish line with a time of 23.59s ahead of the two-time Paralympic gold medallist and four-time World champion Great Britain's Richard Whitehead. In the long jump T63, he set a World record and personal best with 7.17m.
Ethiopia's 21-year-old athlete Tigist Gezahagn Mengistu made history by winning gold in the women's 1500m T13 in her first Paralympic Games.