GE looks back at the five best Olympic performances from African athletes this century.
This year, all roads lead to Rio de Janeiro and the Olympic Games. General Electric has been partners with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) since 2006 and have renewed its sponsorship contract for the Olympic Games in 2020.
Sometimes you have to look back in order to move forward. In that spirit, as athletes and teams are preparing to give nothing but their best, GE looks back at the five best Olympic performances from African athletes this century.
Abebe Bikila, Ethiopia
Ethiopian Abebe Bikila, astonished the world as the first athlete from sub-Saharan Africa to take gold in Rome in 1960 Olympic marathon with a record time of 2:15:16.2. Incredibly, he was barefoot for the entire event. In the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, he again won the marathon in a new Olympic record time of 2:12:11:2.4, beating his own record.
Haile Gebrselassie, Ethiopia
Now retired, Haile Gebrselassie is a double Olympic gold medallist. He won his first Olympic gold medal in 1996 in Atlanta and his second one in 2000 in Sydney. Considered as one of the greatest distance runners in history, Haile has broken 61 Ethiopian national records ranging from 800 metres to the marathon and has set 27 world records.
Francoise Mbango Etone, Cameroon
Triple jumper Francoise Mbango Etone became the first athlete from Cameroon to win an Olympic gold, at the 2004 Athens Olympics. She made history again when she became the first triple jumper to retain her Olympic title, when she set a new Olympic record of 15.39m at Beijing in 2008. She set a new African record in the process.
Ezekiel Kemboi, Kenya
Ezekiel Kemboi won the 3000 metres steeplechase in Athens in 2004 and again in London in 2012. His 3000m steeplechase best of 7:55.76 set at the World Championships in Monaco in 2011 places him as the sixth fastest of all time. Ezekiel won the 3000 metres steeplechase at the 2009 World Championships, the 2011 World Championships, and the 2013 World Championships. He is one of only three men to have won both Olympic and World golds in the steeplechase event, along with Reuben Kosgei and Brimin Kipruote. He is the only multiple gold medallist in both.
Penny Heyns, South Africa
Penelope “Penny” Heyns is the only woman in history to have won both the 100m and 200m breaststroke events, at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. This makes her South Africa’s first post-apartheid gold medallist following the country’s re-admission to the Games in 1992. She is considered to be one of the greatest female breaststroke swimmers of all time.