Ethiopia’s Tiki Gelana Wins Olympic Women’s Marathon

Posted August 5th, 2012 at 10:44 am (UTC-4)

A pack of Olympic marathon runners on the Mall, early in Sunday’s race.

London’s iconic landmarks and quickly changing weather were both on display in Sunday’s Olympic women’s marathon, which was won by Ethiopia’s Tiki Gelana in an Olympic record 2:23:07. The field of 118 runners started the race in a light rain. After about an hour of competition, the sun appeared and steam rose off the streets, lined four and five deep with cheering spectators. By the time the 24-year-old Ethiopian hit the tape, more rain was falling, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the fans or Tiki Gelana, who grabbed an Ethiopian flag and did a ceremonial victory lap.

Kenyan and Ethiopian runners, including newly crowned Olympic champion Tiki Gelana.

Kenya’s Priscah Jeptoo won the silver medal (in 2:23:12), while Russia’s Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova won the bronze (in a personal best 2:23:29). Usually, the men’s and women’s Olympic marathons finish inside the main Olympic Stadium. But organizers broke with tradition and mapped a four loop course that took the runners past many of London’s notable tourist attractions. The race started and finished on the Mall, not far from Buckingham Palace.

Your trusty Olympic blogger was impressed with the huge crowds that turned out under less than ideal conditions. One of the athletes they cheered for was Romania’s Constantina Dita, the defending Olympic champion, who struggled Sunday and finished 86th overall, in 2:41:34, almost 15 minutes slower than her gold medal-winning time in Beijing four years ago.

Shalane Flanagan of the USA, who finished 10th overall in 2:25:51.

The men’s Olympic marathon will be held on the same course August 12th, the final day of Olympic competition.

The Kenyan Olympic team held a moment of silence before coming to London for the late Sammy Wanjiru, the 2008 Olympic marathon champion who died last year at age 24 after falling off a balcony at his home.

While Kenya has produced many of the world’s greatest marathoners, Sunday’s victory by Tiki Gelana means a Kenyan woman still has not won an Olympic marathon title.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Young Olympians From Malawi and Seychelles Make Splash

Posted August 1st, 2012 at 6:01 am (UTC-4)

Aurelie Fanchette
Official London Olympics website photo

Two of the youngest Olympians here in London are swimmers from Malawi and the Seychelles. Joyce Tafatatha and Aurelie Fanchette, both 14, are delighted to be competing in their first Olympic Games. Fanchette swam Monday (July 30) in the women’s 200 meters freestyle heats. Even though her time (2:23.49) was almost 30 seconds slower than that of newly crowned Olympic champion Allison Schmitt of the USA (1:53.61), it was a personal best, and the crowd cheered in support of the Seychelles teenager when she touched the wall.

“Inspire a generation” is the official slogan of the London Olympics, and Fanchette says she hopes she can encourage younger athletes in the Seychelles with her performance. She received a wild card entry to compete in London, and in her words, “I really want to come back at the next Olympics in Rio, and hopefully I will try to qualify for them, rather than just get invited.”

Malawian Olympian Joyce Tafatatha

Meanwhile, Malawian teenager Joyce Tafatatha will swim Friday (August 3) in the heats for the women’s 50 meter freestyle. She says American star Michael Phelps is one of her swimming heroes, and like Fanchette, she hopes she can inspire younger Malawians by competing in London.

Even though they will not go home with an Olympic medal, Tafatatha and Fanchette say rubbing shoulders with the likes of Phelps and other Olympic stars in the Athletes’ Village has given them some thrilling lifetime memories and motivation to train harder in the future.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Cheruiyot Runs For Olympic Gold

Posted July 31st, 2012 at 3:56 am (UTC-4)
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Vivian Cheruiyot hopes to win her first Olympic gold medal in London.

Kenyan world champion Vivian Cheruiyot begins her quest for two Olympic gold medals Friday when athletics action gets under way at the Olympic Stadium here in London. The 28-year-old Cheruiyot is trying to match the achievement of Ethiopian rival Tirunesh Dibaba, who won gold at both 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Cheruiyot won gold at both distances at last year’s world championships in Daegu, South Korea.

Ethiopian Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba

I spoke last week with Gordon Oluoch, Kenya’s Commissioner of Sports, and he told me he’s optimistic Cheruiyot will be on the medals podium after Friday evening’s women’s 10,000 event. But will she be on the very top? Dibaba looks ready for Cheruiyot’s challenge. Last month, the Ethiopian clocked 30:24.39 in the northwestern U.S. city of Eugene, Oregon, the fastest time by any woman this year, and two minutes faster than Cheruiyot’s season best. Olympic distance races, though, tend to be tactical in nature, and Friday night’s final could very well come down to a closing sprint between the African stars.

Cheruiyot has won numerous international awards during her athletics career, but she does not yet have an Olympic gold medal. If she comes up short Friday, she’s scheduled to get another chance August 10th, when the women’s 5,000 meters will be held.

Dibaba is currently listed as a reserve on the Ethiopian squad for the 5,000. Four years ago in Beijing, she won Olympic gold in 15:41.40, with Cheruiyot placing fifth, about five seconds behind.


Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Historical Olympic Victory For Cameron van der Burgh

Posted July 30th, 2012 at 3:01 am (UTC-4)

Cameron van der Burgh Facebook photo

Cameron van der Burgh made history here in London Sunday, becoming the first South African man to win an individual Olympic gold medal in swimming. And he did it in world record fashion, touching the wall in 58.46 seconds in the 100 meters breaststroke final. His time took 0.12 seconds off the world record set by Australia’s Brenton Rickard at the 2009 world championships in Rome. In addition, van der Burgh’s gold was the first by an African athlete at these London Games.

Following his triumph, van der Burgh paid tribute to the late world champion swimmer Alexander Dale Oen of Norway, who died three months ago of heart disease at age 26. He and Oen were good friends, and he credits the Norwegian as being a mentor in international swimming. “When someone is in your life they always leave a part of them inside of you,” Van der Burgh said. “Tonight, I really felt him.”

London Olympics Aquatics Center

The 24-year-old van der Burgh has also won nine world championship medals, including two gold, in his successful swimming career. He and Penny Heyns are the only South Africans to win individual swimming golds at the Olympics. Heyns won the 100 and 200 meter breaststroke events at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Olympic Greetings From London

Posted July 26th, 2012 at 8:32 am (UTC-4)

University of East London campus “drums” provide housing for Sonny during the 2012 Olympics.

Hello from London! I arrived in the British capital with umbrella in hand after reading reports of record rainfall in the 2012 Olympic host city.  But so far, sports fans, the weather has been on the sunny side. I’m staying in an area of east London known as Docklands, located on the northern end of the Thames peninsula called the Isle of Dogs. While I haven’t heard dogs barking at the University of East London campus, I have heard and seen planes taking off and landing at London City Airport across the Thames.

Time Out, the official publisher of travel and tourism guides for the London 2012 Olympics, describes Docklands as “for many years a chunk of barely populated tower blocks awaiting economic revival.” Olympic organizers are hoping the Games will provide an economic boost to the east London area, where the Olympic Park and Olympic Stadium are located.

Sebastian Coe

Security is tight. I can’t enter the University of East London grounds without first getting my official credential scanned by a security guard. There are also various security checkpoints in and around the Olympic Park.

Two-time Olympic champion Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, has said these will not be an “under siege” Games, but a celebration of the world’s greatest sporting event.

On that note, let the Games begin!



Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

American Indian Olympic Champion Billy Mills

Posted July 19th, 2012 at 2:54 pm (UTC-4)

Painting by Pat Mills

Billy Mills is proud of his wife Pat’s painting. “There’s so much information in it,” says Mills, the only American ever to win Olympic gold in the 10,000 meters race. “Ancestors, Olympic rings, Mount Olympus, Olympic columns, a dream catcher, me in a Lakota drum. The image she painted of me was after crossing the finish line at the 1964 Olympics and capturing the emotional moment of realizing what just happened.”

Billy Mills crosses the finish line in 10,000 meters race at 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The painting capturing what happened almost 50 years ago was displayed at the National Museum of the American Indian, located right across Independence Avenue from our Voice of America headquarters in Washington, D.C. It’s part of “Best in the World: Native Athletes in the Olympics,” an exhibit that goes through September 3, 2012.

The 74-year-old Mills, a Lakota Indian, is also proud of his Native American heritage. Since his thrilling, come from behind victory in Tokyo, described as one of the greatest Olympic upsets, he has become the national spokesman for Running Strong for American Indian Youth, a non-profit group that works on behalf of American Indian children and families.

Mills says he travels much of the year, speaking to American Indian youth about healthy lifestyles and the power of positive thinking. He says in his training for the Tokyo Games, he visualized Olympic success “dozens of times a day.”

As we look forward to the London Games, there will surely be more Olympic athletes visualizing Olympic success, with some perhaps inspired by the gold medal-winning story of Billy Mills.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Nigerian Olympian Blessing Okagbare

Posted July 16th, 2012 at 4:25 pm (UTC-4)

One Nigerian athlete to watch at the upcoming London Olympics is Blessing Okagbare, who will compete in the women’s long jump and in the women’s 100 meter dash. The 23-year-old Okagbare, bronze medalist in the long jump at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, won gold in the event at the recent African championships in Benin, as well as a silver in the 100 meters. She looks to be in top form ahead of the London Games. Running in lane three Saturday (July 14th) at the London Grand Prix, Okagbare beat world champion Carmelita Jeter of the United States, winning the 100 meters in 11.01 seconds.

Okagbare dedicated her victory in London to Emmanuel Uduaghan, the Governor of Nigeria’s Delta State, who gave financial support to her and other athletes when they trained recently in Oghara, Delta State.

Blessing Okagbare hopes to sprint to a medal at the London Olympics

Blessing Okagbare has also trained in the United States. She was a star for the University of Texas at El Paso’s track and field program, winning national titles in both the long jump and the 100 meter dash.

Track and field action will be held at the Olympic stadium in east London. The women’s 100 meter dash final will be August 4 and the women’s long jump final August 8.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Drogba & Kanu: Keepers of the Olympic Flame

Posted July 13th, 2012 at 2:57 pm (UTC-4)

Didier Drogba carries the Olympic torch
(official London 2012 Organizing Committee photo)

The Olympic flame continues to wind its way to London, where on July 27th, it will ignite the Olympic cauldron during opening ceremonies for the Games of the XXX Olympiad. During the Olympic torch relay in the United Kingdom, the torch passed through the hands of two of Africa’s biggest football stars, Didier Drogba of Ivory Coast and Nwankwo Kanu of Nigeria.

Drogba carried the Olympic flame shortly after leading Chelsea Football Club to its first ever UEFA Champions League title, and shortly before signing with the Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua in a multi-million dollar deal. At 34, Drogba also continues to captain the Elephants of Ivory Coast, Africa’s highest-ranked football team.

Nwankwo Kanu carries the Olympic torch in Coventry, England
(official London 2012 Organizing Committee photo)

Like Drogba, the 35-year-old Kanu is a two-time winner of the African Footballer of the Year award.  And like Drogba, he’s won medals in the UEFA Champions League, the FA Cup and the English Premier League. But Kanu has one prize that Drogba doesn’t have, an Olympic gold medal.

Kanu captained the Nigerian team that won Olympic gold at the 1996 Atlanta Games in the USA. After watching Nigeria win a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Kanu said he was disappointed Nigeria did not qualify for the 2012 Olympic men’s football tournament.

Kanu and Drogba are just two of 8,000 torchbearers from around the world who will have passed on the flame as it makes its way to the Olympic Stadium in east London. The Olympic torch relay began May 19th in Greece, the birthplace of the Olympics.






Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Nigeria Celebrates First Olympic Basketball Berth

Posted July 12th, 2012 at 3:12 pm (UTC-4)

I received an email from Abel Udoekene, a loyal Sonny Side of Sports listener in Lagos, Nigeria, celebrating the achievement of The Tigers, Nigeria’s national men’s basketball team. “It gives me great joy,” wrote Abel, “to congratulate the Nigerian basketball team for qualifying for the first time for the Olympics, they are the pride of Africa.” Nigerian pride swelled after the Tigers topped the Dominican Republic, 88-73, at the FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament in Venezuela, to book their first Olympic ticket. Check out the joyous reactions of the Nigerian players in this video:

Forward-center Ike Diogu, who had game-high totals of 25 points and 10 rebounds in the victory over the Dominican Republic, is described as the heart and soul of the Nigerian team. The 28-year-old Diogu was born in Buffalo, New York, and he’s part of a core group of Tigers who have both American and Nigerian citizenship. The 2.06 meter tall (6’9″) and 113-kilogram (250 lbs.) Diogu starred at

Nigerian Olympic basketball player Ike Diogu

Arizona State University and since turning professional, he’s played for seven National Basketball Association clubs as well as teams in China and Puerto Rico.

“The group we have this year is not like any group we’ve ever had,” says Diogu. “When we assembled, the first thing coach said was, ‘let’s make history.’ But it’s not just a one year thing. We want to

Nigerian Olympic coach Ayo Bakare

have sustainable success and that’s what we’re working towards.”

Head coach Ayo Bakare says the team is also working towards changing the perceptions of the many sports fans in Nigeria.  He says the country’s focus is on football, but the team’s success in making its maiden Olympic trip has Nigerian fans turning their attention to basketball and cheering for the Tigers.

Nigeria will tip off its Olympic campaign July 29th against African rival Tunisia, another team making its Olympic debut. Both African squads will face daunting challenges in London. Their first round group also includes the gold medal favorite USA, featuring LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant. The Americans, led by Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski, are the defending world and Olympic champions. Also in the group is 2004 Olympic champion Argentina, two-time Olympic silver medalist France and three-time Olympic bronze medalist Lithuania.


Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

USA Aims For More Gold In Olympic Basketball

Posted July 9th, 2012 at 3:39 pm (UTC-4)

USA Olympic basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski

The United States will be defending its gold medals in both men’s and women’s basketball at the upcoming London Olympics. Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski led the American men to gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey, and he says the 2012 Olympic squad is a nice blend of those teams. “We have five guys from our Olympic basketball team in Beijing and we have five guys from our world championship team in Turkey,” says Krzyzewski. “I’m excited about our opportunity to achieve success. The team has great versatility and athleticism.”

Kobe Bryant & LeBron James will lead the 2012 USA Olympic men’s basketball team

The great versatility and athleticism of LeBron James will once again be on display in London. The Miami Heat star, a member of the gold medal-winning 2008 Olympic team, recently capped an outstanding NBA season with his first NBA championship and third league Most Valuable Player award. “We’re happy to be back together,” says James, “and we’ll work each and every day towards our goal, and that’s to bring home a gold medal.”

Like James, Kobe Bryant is also hoping to bring home a second Olympic gold medal. “I’m very excited,” says Bryant. “This will be a challenge for us. I feel like the rest of the world kind of feels like the gap is continuing to shorten and they feel like they can beat us … we know what’s at stake, and come Olympic time, we’re going to be ready to go and we’re going to bring back the gold medal to the USA.”

James Harden

At 33, Bryant is the oldest player on the USA’s Olympic men’s basketball team. The youngest is 22-year-old James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award, given to the league’s top reserve player, in 2012.

The 12-team Olympic men’s basketball tournament tips off July 29th in London. For first round play, the USA is grouped with Argentina, France, Lithuania, Nigeria and Tunisia. Argentina won the Olympic gold medal in 2004, and a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Games; France is a two-time Olympic silver medalist; Lithuania is a three-time Olympic bronze medalist; and Nigeria and Tunisia are both making their Olympic debuts in men’s basketball.

The quarterfinals are scheduled for August 8th, the semifinals August 10th and the gold medal game on August 12th, the final day of Olympic competition.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Sixteen teams. 28 matches. Three weeks. One winner. Champion of Africa.

Follow all the action in the Africa Cup of Nations 2015 with Voice of America. Led by on-the-ground coverage by Abdushakur Aboud from Equatorial Guinea, VOA’s reporters, producers and bloggers will be watching and reporting—here and on-the-air—as the sides look for bragging rights to be called the best in Africa, and look toward World Cup 2018.

Sonny Side of Sports will return to this space after February 9.


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