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Haggai Erlich

Ethiopian athlete, was born on 7 August 1932 in Jato, a village located some eighty miles from Addis Ababa, outside the town of Mendida in Shewa Province. His father died before he was born, and young Abebe was adopted by Bikila Demisse, a shepherd. Having completed his studies at age twelve at the local traditional school, he followed in his adopted father’s footsteps. At the age of twenty, he decided to venture out of peasantry and made his way on foot to the capital, to join the Imperial Bodyguard. In 1954 he married Yewibdar Welde-Giyorgis, with whom he fathered four children. He distinguished himself as a talented player of gena, a traditional Ethiopian hockey game, but remained an anonymous soldier until the age of twenty-four. At that time, while guarding the departure of the Ethiopian delegation to the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne he decided to begin competing ...

Article

slalom kayaker and first Togolese winner of an Olympic medal, was born in Lagny-Sur-Marne, France, on 4 August 1981. The son of a Togolese father and a French mother, he grew up in the department of Seine et Marne near Paris. When he was only ten years old, his parents introduced him to the sport of slalom kayaking. They placed their son in a kayak club in their hometown of Lagny-Sur-Marne. He passed his baccalaureate examinations and chose to turn his love for kayaking into a career. Boukpeti excelled at this sport, to the point that he was selected to join a training center in the French city of Toulouse. He also commenced his undergraduate studies in biology, and he received an undergraduate degree in cellular biology and animal physiology from Université Paul Sabatier in Toulouse.

He first entered international competition at the 16th annual world kayaking championship in ...

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Born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, Zola Budd was seventeen years of age in 1984 when she set an unofficial world record for the 5000-meter race with a time of 15 minutes, 1.83 seconds. At that time South Africa was barred from international sport because of its policy of Apartheid, so Budd adopted British citizenship in order to qualify for the 1984 Olympic Games. This move caused a good deal of controversy because it allowed a white South African athlete to defy the ban and appear in international competitions. At the 1984 Games Budd gained international attention when in the last lap of the 3000 meter race American runner Mary Decker Slaney the world record holder in the 3000 meter and the favorite to win tripped on Budd s foot and fell Both Budd and Decker Slaney finished out of the medals Budd initially received much of the ...

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Kathryn Mathers

Zimbabwean swimmer and Olympic gold medal winner, was born in Harare, Zimbabwe, on 16 September 1983. Kirsty attended the Harare Dominican Convent High School. Her parents, Rob and Lyn Coventry, own the Harare-based household chemical company, Omnichem. In 1989 six-year-old Kirsty, who had been taught to swim by her mother, was breaking records at the Highlands Swimming Club. At ten she was a dominant swimmer for Pirates Swimming Club under the coaching of Charles Mathieson. Kirsty was recruited by Kim Bracken for the Auburn University swimming team in Alabama. By December 2010 Kirsty Coventry had won seven Olympic medals, the most individual medals for an African athlete.

Kirsty was nominated as Zimbabwe’s National Sports’ person of the year in 1999 when she represented her country at the All-Africa Games in Johannesburg. At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney she was the first Zimbabwean to reach a semifinal in any ...

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Martha Saavedra

Ethiopian long-distance runner, and the first sub-Saharan African woman to win an Olympic gold medal, was born on 21 March 1972 in Bekoji 80 miles 130 kilometers south of Addis Ababa Ethiopia Like many in their community her father Tulu and her mother Derartu Kenene were farmers who raised cows sheep and horses Despite a population of only 30 thousand Bekoji in the Arsi zone in the central Ethiopia highlands at an altitude of 9 800 feet 3 000 meters is also the birthplace of many successful distance runners from Ethiopia These include Kenenisa Bekele and Derartu s younger cousin Tirunesh Dibaba 2008 Olympic 5 000 10 000 meter and multiple World Cross Country women s champion Like the majority of the country s elite runners as well as athletes in other sports in Ethiopia Derartu is from the Oromo ethnic group A study of Ethiopian national senior and ...

Article

Azeddine Chergui

Moroccan track and field athlete, was born in Berkane, Morocco, on 14 September 1974. In a land where soccer is the national sport, El Guerrouj first tried his athletic skills as a goalkeeper but, because of his mother’s objection to the dirty laundry he brought home from practice, he abandoned soccer for the next best thing, track and field athletics. He was only ten when, like millions of his countrymen, he watched Said Aouita and Nawal Almoutawakil win the first gold medals in Morocco’s history at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Motivated by the achievements of these two national icons, he took up cross-country running to become the greatest middle-distance runner of all time and “King of the Mile.” In 1991 he left school and turned professional by joining the National Athletics Institute in the capital city of Rabat At the age of eighteen he attained his ...

Article

Tracey M. Ober

Born in Casa Verde, a suburb of São Paulo, Adhemar Ferreira da Silva came from a humble background, the only child of a railroad worker and a cook. A friend introduced him to the world of sports when he was almost nineteen years old and by the following year he already held the Brazilian and South American record in the triple jump. At twenty-one, he competed in his first Olympic Games, finishing eighth place in London in 1948. He matched the world record—then 16 meters—in 1950 and set a new record of 16.01m in 1951. A year later at the Helsinki Games, Ferreira da Silva broke his own world record twice on the same day, jumping 16.12m and 16.22m, and winning the gold medal. Ferreira da Silva set a new world record of 16.56m in 1955 and earned a second gold medal at the Melbourne Games in 1956 ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

Frankie Fredericks was a talented athlete as a youth, but he never expected to be in the Olympic Games. Until 1990 his country, Namibia, was a colony of South Africa, which had been banned from Olympic competition because of its policy of Apartheid. Yet Fredericks, who has become one of the world’s premiere sprinters, has brought four Olympic medals home to Namibia.

An only child, Fredericks was raised by his mother in Katutura township, just outside the Namibian capital, Windhoek His mother worked several jobs to send Fredericks to private schools where he excelled in both soccer and academics In high school he started running track specializing in sprinting He won both the 100 and 200 meter races in the South African school championships his senior year After graduating Fredericks passed up several college scholarship offers to accept a management training position with the Rossing Uranium ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

Haile Gebrselassie was born in Arssi, Ethiopia. As a child, he ran barefoot to and from school each day—a round trip of 25 km (15 mi). This was good training for his future career as one of the world’s best runners. Like his brother before him, Gebrselassie began running competitively as a teenager. In 1992 he won both the 5000-m and 10,000-m races at the World Junior Championships. The next year, competing against adults for the first time, he won the 10,000-m and finished second in the 5000-m in the World Championships. In 1996 Gebrselassie not only won the 5000-m event in the World Indoor Championships, he also set an indoor world record, the first Ethiopian to do so. He followed that feat by winning a gold medal in the 10,000-m at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, setting a new Olympic record.

Treated to a victory parade ...

Article

Haggai Erlich

Ethiopian long-distance track and road runner, was born on 18 April 1973 in Arsi Province in southern Ethiopia to a family of ten children. His village of Asella had no electricity and no running water. At the age of five, he began studying in a school some six miles (ten kilometers) from his home, a distance he ran twice a day. His later distinctive, majestically straight running posture, with his left arm somewhat passive and slightly bent, was shaped by years of running while holding his schoolbooks. His father, he testified, was a natural athlete; and the altitude of Arsi Province, some 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) above sea level, proved an ideal breeding ground for great runners, like Kenenisa Bekele, who would in time break many of Gebrselassie’s records, and Tirunesh Dibaba, women’s world and Olympic champion.

Gebrselassie began competing on the national level at the age of fifteen He ...

Article

James Jankowski

Egyptian politician, athlete, and explorer, was born in Bulaq on 31 October 1889. He was the son of Shaykh Muhammad Hasanayn of al-Azhar and the grandson of Admiral Ahmad Pasha Mazhar Hasanayn. Hasanayn received his early education in Cairo, then at Balliol College, Oxford. A skilled fencer, in 1920 he captained the Egyptian team at the Olympic Games in Brussels. In the early 1920s, he was commissioned by King Fuʾad to explore Egypt’s Western Desert. The Lost Oases (1925) is his own account of his expedition of 1923 on which he traveled from Egypt’s Mediterranean coast through the Libyan Desert, discovering the “lost” oases of Arkenu and Ouenat, and for which he received the Founder’s Medal of Britain’s Royal Geographical Society. In the hope of establishing a long-distance flight record, in 1929 he learned to fly; plagued by malfunctioning aircraft, he eventually abandoned the effort.

Somewhat out ...

Article

As a boy growing up in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, Alberto Juantorena excelled in Basketball. After he was sent 800 kilometers (500 miles) from his hometown to attend Havana's Higher School of Athletic Improvement, a track coach noticed Juantorena running laps with the basketball team and told the athlete that his future lay in track. Juantorena soon found that no one could keep up with him in the 400-meter race.

Juantorena met Irria Cardova, a gymnast, at the school and later the couple married. Like many of Cuba's top athletes, Juantorena enrolled in the University of Havana's Institute for Physical Culture and kept his student status throughout most of his international career. Although Juantorena had focused his training on the 400-meter dash, only a few months before the 1976 Olympics in Montréal Canada he was told he would represent his country in the 800 meter race ...

Article

John Bale

Kenyan athlete, world record holder, and Olympic champion, was born Hezekia Kipchoge Keino on 17 January 1940 in Kipsano, Kenya, in the Nandi district of the southern part of Rift Valley province. His mother died when he was four. His father worked on a tea plantation and was a good runner, winning prizes in plantation- sponsored races. As a youngster in the 1950s, young Keino was inspired by Nyandika Maiyoro, the first Kenyan athlete to run against world-class athletes when he competed in the British championship in London and the Commonwealth Games in Vancouver in 1954 Maiyoro exploded the prevailing view that black athletes could not perform well in long distance running and became Keino s role model Initially Keino was self trained but he later became a member of the police force which offered him time to train and compete As he improved he was trained and advised ...

Article

Martha Saavedra

Ethiopian distance runner, was born on 13 June 1982 in the town of Bekoji, in Arsi Zone, Oromi Region of Ethiopia. He was the second son of Bekele Bayicha, a successful farmer and Kuli Megerssa, Bayicha’s third wife. His father, who was fifty-six at his son’s birth, chose the name “Kenenisa” which in the Oromo language means “you brought me delight.” He has two sisters and three brothers, one of whom, Tariku (b. 28 February 1987), is also a distance runner.

He preferred football when younger but was inspired by local runners Haile Gebrselassie Derartu Tulu and Fatuma Roba to take up athletics Gebrselassie eventually became his mentor Like many other runners from his hometown he was first coached by Sentayehu Eshetu at Bekoji Elementary School His father however was not pleased preferring his son to concentrate on his education With early victories and evidence of his religious commitment his ...

Article

Martha Saavedra

Mozambican athlete and philanthropist, was born on 27 October 1972 in Maputo, Mozambique. One of the most accomplished athletes ever, Mutola maintained a dominating presence for two decades in her event, the 800-meter foot race, a race of speed and endurance. Her achievements include Mozambique’s first Olympic gold medal, three world championships, and seven world indoor championships. Number seventeen on the all-time list for the 800—only seven women have run faster—it was her consistency in winning that cemented her reputation. Fittingly, she went undefeated in 2003 in six track meets to become the first athlete to win the $1 million International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) Golden League Jackpot. She retired in 2008 after competing in her sixth Olympics and one final Golden League meet in Zurich. Like many other elite athletes, she has used her fame and earnings for social projects, particularly through her foundation in Mozambique.

Had professional ...

Article

Robert Fay

Shortly after gaining independence in 1960, Nigeria joined other newly independent African nations in international soccer tournaments. With the largest population in Africa, Nigeria was expected by many observers to become an immediate soccer power. In fact it took the Super Eagles nearly twenty years to achieve star status, but they have since maintained it.

In 1961 the Super Eagles first participated in the African Cup of Nations, but more experienced African teams easily eliminated them. By 1976, when the team finished third in the African Cup, Nigeria had gained respect in African soccer circles. By 1980 the Super Eagles had emerged as one of Africa’s perennial powers. They won the African Cup that year and again in 1994 and finished runner-up in 1988 and 1990.

Similar to its performance in the African Cup Nigeria has made a slow climb in World Cup soccer The Super Eagles ...

Article

Carmen De Michele

Nigerian soccer player known as Jay-Jay, was born in Enugu in the Nigerian Delta State Ogwashi on 14 August 1973. He became famous for his mesmerizing dribbling and spectacular goals as well as for his sometimes mercurial temper. Immediately after finishing his secondary school education, the seventeen-year-old Okocha joined the local side Enugu Rangers in 1990 but only stayed with them for seven months He quit the team even before the end of the season and moved to Germany where he had a trial run with Borussia Neunkirchen a third division German soccer club based in Saarland Soon after his arrival the teenage Okocha impressed the German fans with his audacious play Dragoslav Stepanovic the coach of a rival team Eintracht Trier noticed Okocha s talent and took the young player with him when he was appointed coach of Eintracht Frankfurt in the German Bundesliga Okocha debuted for ...

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Jeremy Rich

Nigerian basketball player, was born Akeem Abdul Olajuwon on 21 January 1963 in the Nigerian city of Lagos. His parents, Salim and Abike Olajuwon, were Muslim members of the Yoruba ethnic community. Olajuwon had the good fortune of belonging to a fairly well-off family, as his parents owned a cement fabrication firm.

As he grew up in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Olajuwon played the Nigerian national sport of soccer. Basketball had yet to attract much attention in West Africa, and relatively few organized leagues existed in Nigeria. He was a goalkeeper in soccer and the captain of his state team in handball, a sport that remained more popular in Africa than in North America for decades. Olajuwon later credited this experience for giving him the footwork and ability to anticipate that helped make him a fearsome interior defender in basketball. In 1978 Olajuwon entered a basketball ...

Article

At the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, held in Atlanta, Georgia, African athletes brought home thirty-four medals, eleven of them gold. The continent, however, which sent teams from fifty-two nations to the Atlanta games, has had a shorter history of Olympic participation than Europe or the Americas, and one marked by exclusion alternating with triumph.

The first African country to claim a gold medal in the modern Olympic Games was South Africa, which won gold in 1908 for the 100-meter race. South African athletes—until 1992, only whites were permitted to participate—also won gold in cycling in 1912, Tennis in 1912 and 1920, wrestling in 1928, and swimming in 1952. Gold medals for weightlifting went to the Egyptians in 1928, 1936, and 1948. In 1960 the barefoot Ethiopian marathoner Abebe Bikila became the first black sub Saharan athlete to win a ...

Article

Record-breaking runner Ana Fidelia Quirot won worldwide admiration when, after suffering severe burns to more than a third of her body, made a comeback and won a silver medal at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

Quirot was born in Santiago de Cuba, in the eastern province of Oriente on the island of Cuba. At the age of thirteen she gained admittance to one of Cuba's prestigious state-run athletic training schools, where she was able to train as part of her educational curriculum. After completing her studies in the early 1980s, she dedicated much of her time to athletic training. Quirot found her niche in the 400- and 800-meter races. Just as she reached the peak years of her career, however, Cuba boycotted the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympic Games for political reasons. Quirot, who is strongly patriotic and considers Cuban president Fidel Castro one of her heroes ...