Africa ready for Olympic quest
The African Continental Qualification Regatta for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games was held in Tunis, Tunisia with the largest numbers competitors ever seen at this regatta.
A total of 24 nations participated including for the first time Benin, Mali, Ghana, Djibouti and Mauritius.
Over the space of three days, rowers were narrowed down to the final six. The men's single sculls had four qualifying with Abdelkhalek Elbanna of Egypt winning by a comfortable margin. The real battle instead was for the fourth position with Alhussein Ghambour of Libya missing out to Peter Purcell Gilpin of Zimbabwe by less than a second. Gilpin, 21, raced at this year's World Rowing Under 23 Championships.
The women's single scull was much clearer. Micheen Thornycroft of Zimbabwe won easily ahead of Amina Rouba of Algeria with Chierika Ukogu of Nigeria in third. This will be the second Olympic Games for Thornycroft who finished twelfth in the single at this year's World Rowing Championships. Thornycroft attributes some of her improved speed to her move to South Africa for training. For Ukogu, she goes into history as being the first woman to compete for Nigeria in rowing at the Olympics.
The lightweight men's double sculls just had one qualifying spot available and this was won by Omar elsobhy Emira and Mohamed Nofel of Egypt. They finished four seconds ahead of Angola. For the women, Tunisia's Nour Elhouda Ettaieb and Khadija Krimi of Tunisia won the only available qualifying spot. Etajeb and Krimi raced together in the double as junior at the 2013 World Rowing Championships. Krimi then moved into the single for the under-23 level with Ettaieb staying at the junior level to race in the 2014 Youth Olympic Games.
"The African standard has gone up," said FISA Development Manager, Sheila Stephens Desbans. "We have seen the race times improving. For example Micheen (Thornycroft) is now regularly going under eight minutes." Thornycroft's winning time was 7:49.
Men's Single Sculls
Abdelkhalek Elbanna, Egypt*
Mohamed Taieb, Tunisia
Sid Boudina, Algeria
Peter Purcell Gilpin, Zimbabwe
Women's Single Sculls
Micheen Thornycroft, Zimbabwe
Amina Rouba, Algeria
Chierika Ukogu, Nigeria
Heba Ahmed, Egypt
Lightweight Men's Double Sculls
Omar elsobhy Emira and Mohamed Nofel, Egypt*
Lightweight Women's Double Sculls
Nour Elhouda Ettiaeb and Khadija Krimi, Tunisia
*Note: As per the qualification system, Egypt will have to select one male crew and the next placing crew of the boat class not selected will be the one that qualifies. So potentially it can be the fifth-place getter in the men's single sculls (Libya) or the second-place getter in the lightweight men's double sculls (Angola).
Qualification System here.