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16 July 2019 | in NUSF News, Summer FISU World University Games

#Napoli2019 rewrites African Universiade history

South Africa struck double medals in the men's 10,000m on the athletics oval inside Stadium San Paulo with Milton Kekana taking gold and Adriaan Wildshutt silver

The curtain has finally fallen on a spectacular 30th edition of the FISU Summer Universaide in Napoli, Italy, in what will go down as an especially-memorable competition for the African countries competing at the Games.


Often competing in the shadows of their more fancied rivals from bigger nations in Asia, Europe, Australasia and the Americas, Africa as a whole can stand proud after Napoli 2019, with the continent registering a total of 26 medals altogether – the most ever reached at a Summer Universiade, beating their previous-best total of 22 medals earned at Summer Universiade 2009 in Belgrade, Serbia exactly a decade ago.


Leading the way was the continent’s biggest delegation South Africa, who managed to surpass their initial eight-medal target in some style as they ended the Games with 18 medals in total – a personal high as well, beating their previous best tally of 14 medals won at the Kazan 2013 Summer Universiade.

 South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker winning gold in the 200m Breaststroke. This victorious swim came in addition to the gold she won in the 100m breaststroke two days earlier.

Of South Africa’s 18 medals, six of them were gold, with five of those earned in the swimming pool: flag-bearer Tatjana Schoenmaker touched the wall first in the 100m and 200m breastroke; Tayla Lovemore summited the podium in both the 50m and 100m butterfly while Zane Waddell claimed gold in the 50m backstroke.


The nation’s last gold medal came on the track as Milton Kekana ran fastest in the men’s 10,000m final, as compatriot Adriaan Wildshutt claimed bronze in the same event. South Africa also featured twice on the podium in the men’s 3000m steeple chase final, as Rantso Mokopane claimed silver in a sprint finish while Ashley Smith finished just behind in third.

Milton Kekana attempting the most difficult of doubles: 10,000m and half marathon in the sweltering southern Italian sun. Kekana put in a valiant effort after winning athletics gold, but on the road it was all Japan as they went one-two-three. 

After finishing 44th in the overall medal table in Taipei two years ago, South Africa finished tenth in Napoli, cracking the top ten for just the second time in the 13 Universiades in which they have competed since 1995, bettered only by their eighth place finish in Kazan 2013.


Following behind South Africa as the second-best African side at this year’s Universiade was Morocco, where Mounaime Sassioui’s gold in the men’s 3000m steeplechase secured an all-African podium in that event. He, alongside Moad Zahafi’s silver in the men’s 800m and Soufiane Elasbi’s bronze in the men’s 74kg Taekwondo, ensured Morocco left Napoli with three medals more than they ended with in Taipei as they finished 32nd overall on the medal standings.

 Mounaime Sassioui’s celebrates gold in the men’s 3000m steeplechase

Algeria rounded off Africa’s top-three performers at Napoli 2019, with Mohamed Belbachir’s gold in the men’s 800m helping his nation finish 40th overall – seven spots higher than in 2017.


Egypt will be proud of their efforts in Napoli: after failing to bring home a medal two years ago, two silvers in the Taekwondo competition helped them improve on their efforts in Taipei as they finished 45th out of the 127 countries that participated.


Taipei 2017’s best-performing African country Uganda, who last time finished 35th with three medals in total, narrowly missed matching their efforts in China as a silver and bronze on the track saw them finish the Games in 49th spot overall.

 Marthe Koala of Burkina Faso (left) receiving the silver medal during the women’s heptathlon awarding ceremony

Burkina Faso celebrated Marthe Koala’s silver in the women’s heptathlon, their solitary medal leaving them 53rd overall, narrowly beating Taipei’s 54th-place finish.


The seventh and last African country to medal at Napoli 2019 was Ethiopia, as Meswat Dagnaw claimed bronze in the 3000m steeplechase to ensure her country did not leave empty-handed as they did two years ago, but instead made it onto the podium in tied 57th place.


And so, as the teams all make their way home from an enjoyable and unforgettable 12 days in Napoli, Africa as a whole can look back and reflect with a huge smile on their exploits an progress made at this year’s Universiade: three more countries medalled this year than in Taipei, while 12 more medals were earned in total. Small steps maybe in the eyes of others, but huge steps forward for the African continent as they continue their upward trajectory … Chengdu 2021 awaits!