The African Takeover of Europe

Review of the week: 7 – 13 December 2015

Sifan Hassan Prague 2015

European Cross Country Championships

It has been a packed year for Sifan Hassan. She has squeezed in 1500m gold at the European Indoor Championships in March (above), bronze in the same event at the Outdoor Worlds in August, and tied it up with a cross country win at the weekend.

In any other year, she would easily have been Dutch Sportswoman of the Year but her achievements were overshadowed by that of world 200m champion, Dafne Schippers.

The men’s race was won by Ali Kaya of Turkey and Alemayehu Bezabeh of Spain was in second place. And there the controversy begins, because Kaya was born in Turkey and Bezebah in Ethiopia. They are part of a growing trend of African athletes representing countries without having a real connection, first in the Middle East and now in Europe.

Hassan too, was born in Ethiopia but has legitimate reasons to run for the Netherlands, having moved there as a refugee at the age of 15. Nevertheless, she was old enough that she spent her childhood living at altitude, and would have reaped many of the benefits.

And even more alarming for Bezebah than his defection to Spain is his doping history. In 2010, he was caught carrying a bag of his own blood and was banned for two years. It is another reminder of the challenges facing athletics, as it enters the 2016 Olympic year.

Carla Rebecchi

U23 Africa Cup of Nations Football

Africans also won in Africa. Nigeria followed up its global U17 title by beating Algeria in the final. The tournament served as an Olympic qualifier and both finalists will go to Rio, along with South Africa, which beats hosts Senegal on penalties for the remaining place.

It was a frustrating performance for the Senegal team, which had a penalty saved by the South African goalkeeper in normal time, and then another three during the shootout.

Women’s World League Hockey

Argentina took its first World League title at home in Rosario. It defeated the defending champions, the Netherlands, in the quarter-finals, and thrashed surprise package New Zealand 5-1 in the final. Captain Carla Rebecchi (above) shed tears of pride at the result.

New Zealand’s women have never won an Olympic medal and will hope for a first in Rio.

Bowling and Swimming

At the women’s world championships in ten pin bowling, it was a case of the new versus the old powers . South Korea won the singles title through Jeon Eunhee, and Singapore emerged as a threat to reach the final of the team competition. But the traditional force of the United States remains strong, and it claimed the victory over its latest challenger.

Team USA had an even more convincing result in the Duel in the Pool, where it trounced the European All Stars, which had come so close to winning two years ago. But Europe should be far more worried that it cannot even win its own continental championships.

Next week: The World Women’s Handball Champs and the Club World Cup in football

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