Stories from Maputo - 2011 All-Africa Games
by Carole Fuchs
The picture galleries of the competition can be found here
Big mess in the women's triple jump
Journalists don't have easy times with the state of disorganisation reigning at Zimpeto stadium. Absolutely no result made it to the press room so far. Athletes are sometimes also affected, unfortunately.
Sunday 11 - Day 1
When I arrived around the triple jump area to get some updates on the event, I found Algerian coaches and officials very upset. "That's not possible. The jump of a Nigerian athlete was measured 14.47m. She didn't even get close to that and went to say it to the judges, but they don't want to change anything". A few minutes later, the jumping area has become a big circus. The event was interrupted by discussions for 15 minutes, but each side stood firm.
There's no board to display results, so no one can really follow the progression of the event, neither the spectators, nor the athletes who don't know about the results of their direct opponents. The favourite of the event, Algeria's Baya Rahouli, who was 8th at the World Championships in Daegu, fouled her first 2 attemps. She asked to have a look at the results sheet and saw a 14.47m marked for one of the participants. Big shock. She turns to her coach to ask if one of the athlete indeed achieved such a performance - No. Then to the other girls who are as surprised as her. Nigeria's Otonye Iworima, who is de facto leading the competition with this result, explains to the judge she can't realistically have jumped that far. But the judges don't listen to her. Apparently one even told her "Yes you did 14.47m, you just forgot". Facing deaf ears, Algerian officials get down to the track to discuss with the jump. "You know, we had to act that way, one of them told me, otherwise the mark will be validated and nothing can be done to change it. " The event is disrupted, the discussions lead nowhere, the chief judge tells the Algerian official to lodge a protest at the end of the event.
Some athletes try to exercise patience, others are boiling. Weary of not being heard by the judges, Baya Rahouli declared: "I'm worn out, I have the feeling that the judges just give any measure to athletes". She however managed to gather her nerves in the 2nd part of the event improving to 13.54m, 13.97m and 14.02m in her last attempt, the only jump above 14m of the competition. After Otonye Iworima's 4th or 5th jump, the members of the Algerian team, that had come in numbers to support Rahouli, chanted "fifteen meters, fifteen meters" to express their frustration towards the judges.
The competition ended in a state of uncertainty, the judges apparently rectifying the wrong performance at the end of the event. Not knowing for sure where they were standing, the Algerian officials lodged a protest. The Senegalese, Ugandese and Nigerian federation (all the ones concerned by a medal position) did the same.
Anyway, the sequence of events leaves a bitter taste. "It's a bit of a downer" said Iworima, who'll be left out of the podium if the 14.47m jump is not valid, and will never know how far she actually went on that jump. Baya Rahouli said: "It's Africa, we know when coming that organisation is not up to scratch, but we expected to get fair competition". Rahouli's coach to conclude: "What happened is not good for African athletics. How do you want to ask the African elite to come and compete on the African soil after that?".
September 12 update: the CAA Jury Appeal decided to nullify the results from September 11 and reorganize again the event on September 15 - probably not a good news for Uganda's Sarah Nambawa who managed to finish 3rd but appeared visibly injured.