With the Olympic torch currently flaming through the streets of London, and the 2012 Olympic ceremony set to light up the stadium tonight – the entire world is in anticipation of the day the games begin.
We take a look at some of Africa’s top sporting stars, tipped to be in with a chance of going for gold.
1. Caster Semenya, South Africa – 800m Runner. (Photographed above: Photo © www.erki.nl). After storming to victory in the 2009 world championships, Semenya fell under public scrutiny and speculation over her gender. After nearly two years of turmoil, now she’s back and gearing up for her first ever Olympics. And she’s in good hands, after training with her coach Maria Mutola – seven times 800m world champion.
2. Kirsty Coventry, Zimbabwe – Swimmer. Hailed by Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe as the nation’s “golden girl” – Kirsty Coventry has graced the Olympic podium seven times already and has claimed three gold medals. The 28 year old holds a world record in the 200m backstroke and has been voted African swimmer of the year five times.
3. Aya Medany, Egypt – Pentathlete. As a modern pentathlete Aya Medany shoots a gun, rides horses, runs, swims and fences. She debuted at the Athens Olympics aged just 15 in 2004, won eighth place at the Beijing Games and is tipped as one to watch in the 2012 London Olympics. She is the only pentathlete who competes wearing a hijab.
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4. Sifiso Nhlapo, South Africa – BMX. This Sowetan born BMX rider has represented South Africa in the world championships nine times. In Beijing, when BMX first appeared as an official sport in the Olympics, Nhlapo – better known as “Skizo” – was a finalist. He broke his neck a few years back but his health now seems to be fighting fit and after some hardcore prep training on the supercross tracks in France – Skizo could well be a medal contendor.
5. Tirunesh Dibaba, Ethiopia – 5,000m & 10,000m runner. Tirunesh was born into a family of runners – her cousin, Derartu Tulu, was the two-time Olympic and one-time world 10,000m champion. Tirunesh is the current Olympic champion in her categories and she is a testament to the successful athletic history of the Oromo people in long distance running. This year will see her fight to defend her title against fellow Ethiopian Meserat Defar.