In several sectors around the globe, African women have defied limitations and proven that African excellence knows no bounds. This article is a celebration of the talent and tenacity of women who have soared to victory in various sport fields, shattering expectations claiming their rightful place on the world’s biggest stage, the Olympics. Each one of them is a champion, not just in their sport, but in breaking barriers and inspiring generations.
1. Derartu Tulu
She is the first Ethiopian woman and the first African woman to win an Olympic gold medal, which she won in the 10,000 m event at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. She won the 10,000 m Olympic gold for the second time (the only woman to have done this in the history of the event).
She is remembered for her speed and her 60.3 second-last lap at the end of the 10,000 m at the Sydney Olympics was a sprint of note. She has been the president of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) since 14 November 2018.
2. Christine Ijeoma Ohuruogu
She is a British former track and field athlete who specialised in the 400 metres, the event for which she is an Olympic, World and Commonwealth champion. She has also won six World championship medals in the women’s 4 × 400 m relay as part of the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team and bronze Olympic medals with the women’s 4 × 400 m relay at the 2008 Beijing Games and the 2016 Rio Games, her final Olympics.
With 9 championships, she shares with Merlene Ottey and Usain Bolt the record for medalling in most successive global championships – 9 – between the 2005 World Championships in Athletics and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
3. Feryal Abdelaziz
She is an Egyptian karateka and the first female Egyptian to have won a gold medal at the Olympic Games. She achieved this when she won the Women’s Karate Kumite +61kg Gold Medal Bout at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on August 7, 2021. It was Egypt’s first Olympic gold medal since 2004. Abdelaziz previously represented Egypt in the African Games 2019, held in Rabat, Morocco, and won the silver medal in the Female Kumite -68kg category.
4. Letesenbet Gidey
Letesenbet Gidey is an Ethiopian long-distance runner who holds the current world records in 10,000m, 5000m and half marathon competitions. Moreover, she also holds the world best in the 15 km road race. Her half-marathon record of 1:02:52 achieved in Valencia 2021 surpassed the previous mark by more than a minute, making Letesenbet the first debutant to achieve a world record in the event. She also became the first female to break the half marathon time barriers of 64 and 63 minutes as well as the 15 km under 45 minutes.
5. Chioma Ajunwa-Opara
She is a Nigerian former track and field athlete and football player, notable for becoming the first Nigerian to win gold at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and the first black African woman to win an Olympic gold medal in a field event. Chioma remains the only woman to compete at both the FIFA Women’s World Cup as a footballer and the Olympics as a track and field athlete. Chioma has often spoken out against the discrimination female athletes face in compensation, especially when compared to their male counterparts.
6. Peruth Chemutai
Peruth Chemutai is the first Ugandan woman to win an Olympic gold medal in any sport. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, she competed in the 3000 m steeplechase, finishing with a time of 9:01.45, a national record, and win the gold medal.
Peruth started running in 2013 at the age of 14, after visiting the District Athletics Championships in Bukwo as a casual spectator. She won a noteworthy silver medal in the 3000m steeplechase at the 2018 World Junior Championships, which were held in mid-July. She established a national record a week later at the Monaco diamond league with a time of 9:07.94.