2019 gave African sports fans plenty of reasons to celebrate. From Kenyans running into the record books to VAR bringing a controversial end to the CAF Champions League Final, the past year in sport in Africa is one that will be remembered for years to come.
Marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge further solidified his place in history by winning his 4th London Marathon with a time 2:02:37 and followed that feat by becoming the first person to run a 42-kilometer marathon in under two hours. Kipchoge completed the INEOS 1:59 Challenge in 1 hour 59 minutes 40 seconds in Vienna, Austria, in October. However, the athletics’ world governing body has not validated Kipchoge’s time as a world record because it didn’t occur in an open competition and due to how it was paced.
Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei set a world best half marathon time of 1 hour four minutes 28 seconds to win the Great North Run in September. However, her time, which was 23 seconds quicker than the world record, was not ratified as a world record as the Great North Run course is not eligible for records. Kosgei followed that up by smashing the women’s marathon world record by 71 seconds in Chicago with a time of 2 hours 14 minutes 4 seconds the following month. Britain’s Paula Radcliffe had held the previous record for 16 years.
South Africa beat England 32-12 in Yokohama, Japan, to win its third Rugby World Cup. Springboks captain Siya Kolisi also became the first black captain to lift the trophy. South Africa also became the first team to complete a Rugby Championship and World Cup double after claiming the former title in August.
Algeria claimed its second Africa Cup of Nations title after defeating Senegal 1-0. The win was Algeria’s first AFCON championship in 29 years. The matchup with Senegal was the first AFCON final since 1998, and the sixth one in AFCON history, to be contested by two African coaches: Djamel Belmadi of Algeria and Aliou Cissé of Senegal.
Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya chose not to compete at the World Athletics Championships in Doha in September in order to make an attempt at breaking the half marathon world record. The Kenyan’s gamble paid off as he broke the record when he won the fifth edition of the Copenhagen Half Marathon in 58 minutes one second that same month. The previous record of 58 minutes 18 seconds was held by compatriot Abraham Kiptum, who triumphed at the Valencia Half Marathon in October last year.
It was a very tumultuous year for South African runner Caster Semenya. In May, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled in favor of the IAAF decision to regulate unusually high levels of testosterone in female athletes. The ruling, essentially, banned Semenya from running in her preferred distance, the 400m. However, in June, a Swiss court temporarily suspended the IAAF’s decision, allowing Semenya and other women like her to compete in races of all distances.
VAR controversy found its way into Africa’s premier football club competition as Tunisian club Esperance won a fourth CAF Champions League. During the second leg of the final, Moroccan club Wydad Casablanca, which was trailing by a goal, refused to continue playing following a dispute over the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system. The referee subsequently awarded the match to Esperance. A CAF disciplinary hearing in August would validate that decision after Wydad was found guilty of abandoning the match. The abandonment was the first time in the competition’s history that a match in the home-and-away final format had not been completed.