Top 10 male African athletes in 2023 (10-6)

The 2023 Track and Field season proved monumental for African athletes, marking a significant year filled with remarkable achievements. As a Championship year, it showcased Africa’s consistent prowess in the global sporting arena across various competitions, spanning from lesser-known meets to the prestigious Diamond League and culminating in the highly anticipated World Championships.

Amidst a plethora of outstanding athletes, a select few have demonstrated exceptional performances, securing their well-deserved positions on our prestigious 10-man list. These individuals have showcased unparalleled talent, leaving an indelible mark on the world stage with their remarkable achievements throughout the season.

So, who has done enough to merit a place in our ranking? Find out as we begin the countdown with Part 1 of the series featuring Nos. 10 to 6.

10. Tamirat Tola 

 

One marathoner who can lay claim to being consistent on the grid is Tamirat Tola. The 32-year-old Ethiopian has faced some of the very best over the 26.2-mile course in the course of his career and he keeps on waxing strong. How can he not? After all, he keeps on finding new ways to challenge himself. 

Tola has been on the grid for almost a decade, and although he had only churned out three wins over the marathon before the start of this year, the 2022 World Champion added the New York marathon to his growing list of cities that he has conquered. 

Tamirat Tola, TCS New York Marathon
New York, New York, USA
November 5, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

Having kicked off his season at the London marathon, Tola succumbed to the might of the new kid on the block, Kelvin Kiptum as Kenya broke the course record in the English capital. Still, Kiptum held his own to place third in a very fast 2:04:59. He carried that momentum to Budapest as he looked to win back-to-back world titles and was part of a three-man breakaway with eventual champion Victor Kiplangat and Leul Gebresilase before fading, did not finish the race and dropped out after 39 km.

Tola’s big moment of the year came just over two months after as he laced his shoes to run the New York marathon. He seized the men’s title by running hard from the start as he finished in 2:04:58, breaking Geoffrey Mutai’s course record from 2011 by eight seconds. 

Although Tola had arrived in New York with questions about his fitness after he dropped out of the marathon at the world championships in Budapest this summer. He quelled those concerns as he won his only race of the marathon season. He will now look to build towards the 2024 Paris Olympics. 

 

9. Ferdinand Omanyala 

Taking the number nine spot on our countdown is sprinter, Ferdinand Omanyala. The Kenyan had a very eventful 2023 that saw him end the year as world number three in the men’s 100m. Having clawed his way to the top in 2022 by becoming the African and Commonwealth Games Champion, Omanyala needed to make his mark on the world stage and the world championship offered him that opportunity. 

Omanyala started his season indoors to put himself into shape, but it was his jaw-dropping 9.86 clocking in February that caught the eye of the track world as it became the fastest-ever time set by a sprinter that early in the year. 

Ferdinand Omanyala wins 100m in 9.84, to the delight of 60,000 fans, May 13, 2023, photo by Sila Kiplagat.

Despite the race raising a few eyebrows, Omanyala continued to dominate the African front as he won the 100m at the ASA Athletics Grand Prix in South Africa, the Botswana Golden Grand Prix, and the Kip Kieno Classic on home soil. However, it was the races outside the continent that Omanyala seemed to come unstuck. Regardless, he still gave the established order a run for its money on the Diamond League circuit. 

Having placed second in the Diamond League race in Florence and Paris, Omanyala won the Diamond League 100m in Monaco in 9.92s as it helped build his confidence ahead of the World Championships in Budapest. That was his target after he didn’t reach the final in Oregon in 2022. 

However, as faith would have it, Omanyala could only manage a seventh-place finish in the final of the men’s 100m as he struggled to live up to the hype. Still, the Kenyan picked up the pieces as he ended his season on a high note, placing third in the Diamond League final. 

8. Joshua Cheptegei 

 

 When you are the fastest man in history over the 5000m and 10000m, you are allowed to pick races that you compete in. It might seem strange to people who don’t follow athletics, but when you have got a target on your back, as is the case with Joshua Cheptegei, one can’t fault him for focusing his attention on the races that matter. 

And in the world of athletics, the world championships carry so much weight for superstars such as Cheptegei. The Ugandan started his season on a solid note, competing at the 44th World Athletics Cross Country Championships, Bathurst in February and placing third in 29:37.

Cheptegei ran the half-marathon in New York in March and a couple of 5000m races in the Diamond League. However, his eyes were fixed on getting his third 10000m crown at the world level. 

Joshua Cheptegai takes the 10,000m, World Athletics Championships
Budapest, Hungary
August 19-27, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

In Budapest, Cheptegei added another feather to his illustrious cap by clinching his third straight World 10,000m title. The electrifying race saw Cheptegei defending his title against some of the world’s best distance runners, providing fans with a spectacle worthy of a world championship final.

Cheptegei was as poised and strategic as ever. As the pack of elite runners approached the final stretch, the tension among spectators was palpable. Recognizing the crucial moment, Cheptegei surged forward just before the bell, marking the last lap and placing himself firmly in the lead.

At the age of 26, he entered the record books as the fourth man to claim a hat-trick of world 10,000m titles, following in the spike marks of the Ethiopian greats Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele, who both won four and Britain’s supreme championship performer, Mo Farah.

7. Emmanuel Wanyonyi

The 800m holds a special place in the hearts of many Kenyans. After David Rudisha retired, the East African nation has always held their 800m runners in high regard, which means that on the world stage, a gold medal is the minimum requirement. Emmanuel Wanyonyi understood the memo and set out to claim the medal for his country in Budapest. 

The 19-year-old is one of the few youngsters who have matched their precocious talent from the youth categories to delivering top-notch performances at the top level. Wanyonyi was a constant force to reckon with in the Diamond League circuit and Continental Tour events this year, winning his first four races of 2023 in the 800m.

Emmanuel Wanyonyi and Marco Arop battle over the Nike Pre 800m, photo by Brian Eder for RunBlogRun

Having finished eighth at the Monaco Diamond League due to some illness, he was struggling with, there was a bit of trepidation about his form heading into the world championships. Regardless, Wanyonyi put that setback behind him as he pushed toward a first World Championship Gold. 

In Budapest, after going through the rounds with ease, Wanyonyi could only watch as his hopes of retaining the title for Kenya strode further and further out of reach after Canada’s Marco Arop left him in his wake with about 200m to go and kicked to victory.

The season was to end on a good note for Wanyonyi as he exacted revenge on Arop on his way to claiming his very first Diamond League title after he clocked a world-leading time of 1:42:80, which was a new Personal Best for the former world junior champion. 

6. Hughes Fabrice Zango 

 

If there is one true star in the Jumps from Africa, it’s Hugues Fabrice Zango. The Ouagadougou native is no stranger to hard work. He is adamant that he is not the most talented, but has always strived to be the best – in sport and in studies.

Zango had an eventful and triumphant 2023 season, marking a dual accomplishment in the realms of athletics and academia. His unassuming demeanor belied his significant achievements as both a world champion in athletics and a soon-to-be Doctor of Philosophy in electrical engineering.

At the World, Zango showcased his athletic prowess with a remarkable leap of 17.64m in the men’s Triple jump, securing victory over formidable competitors like Lázaro Martínez and Cristian Nápoles from Cuba. This monumental achievement represented not only his athletic success but also mirrored his relentless pursuit of academic excellence.

Zango’s disciplined approach to training, guided by his coach Teddy Tamgho, a former world champion, was pivotal in his success once again. Their meticulous and detail-oriented regimen, reminiscent of Zango’s meticulous laboratory work as part of his academic studies, underscored his dedicated work ethic and contributed to his outstanding performance on the field.

This blend of sporting excellence and academic commitment defines Zango’s character, embodying a multifaceted individual who excels in both domains. His upcoming Doctor of Philosophy degree is a testament to his intellectual prowess, complementing his athletic achievements. 

Zango’s triumph in Budapest was historic, not only for him but also for Burkina Faso. As the first athlete from his country to claim gold at the championships, his victory added to the bronze medal he won at the Tokyo Olympics, and he continues to make history for the West African country.

 

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