Nigeria is set to have its first female Olympic canoe sprint athlete following the African Tokyo 2020 qualifiers in Morocco.

Ayomide Bello’s win in the women’s C1 200 event in Rabat earned Nigeria an Olympic quota for that event. Nigeria’s only other Olympic canoe sprint athlete was Jonathan Akinyemi, who competed at the 2012 London Olympics.

Tunisia’s Mohamed Mrabet has put himself in line for a third Olympics after winning the men’s K1 1000 at the African Games. Mrabet competed in the K1 200 at London, and then in both the K1 200 and K1 1000 in Rio in 2016.

Tunisia is in line to have at least three athletes in Tokyo, after Ghailene Khattali won the men’s C1 1000, and Khaoula Sassi finished second in the women’s K1 200 behind South Africa’s Esti Van Tonder.

South Africa potentially could have three athletes in Tokyo, after Christian Coetzee won the men’s K1 200, Esti Van Tonder won the women’s K1 200 and 500, but can only qualify in one event, and 2012 Olympian Bridgette Hartley teamed up with Donna Hutton to win the women’s K2 500.

As each country can only earn a maximum of two quota places per category through continental qualifications, it means South Africa will have to make the difficult decision of whether to hold on to the K2 500 or the K1 500.

Buly Triste, who carried his country’s flag at the 2016 Rio opening ceremony, helped Sao Tome and Principe earn two Tokyo quotas by partnering Roque dos Ramos to victory in the men’s C2 1000.

It would be the third Olympic Games for the Sao Tome canoe sprint team, after their debut in Beijing in 2008. Triste competed in the C1 1000 in Rio.

While the first African country quotas have now been awarded, it will be up to each national Olympic committee to decide which athletes to send.

Meanwhile the African Games in Morocco has signaled a new start for the Confederation of African Canoeing (CAC), as it looks to capitalise on the growing popularity of canoeing on the continent.

The confederation has launched a new website, refreshed its social media channels and unveiled a new media team as part of its plan to take the sport to more Africans and to make it more accessible for athletes, federations and fans.

CAC President Joao Costa Alegre said it’s the start of an exciting new chapter for the sport in Africa.

“Canoeing is really on the rise across our continent, and these changes reflect the role we want to play in continuing to grow canoeing,” Mr Alegre said.

“The first step is to maker sure everyone is informed. We want to provide a platform where we can not only communicate with athletes, clubs and officials, but most importantly, where they can talk with us.

“Africa is very diverse, so each canoeing community has different challenges and different success stories. By providing an online site for people to share their experiences, we will broaden the knowledge across the continent.”

The new website and social media channels tasted immediate success during the African Games, broadcasting live competition on the CAC Facebook page, including all the medal ceremonies. Rae schedules and live results were also posted, and were well received by the canoeing community.

Mr Alegre said the challenge will now be to keep the African canoeing community engaged.

“We have a fantastic new team which has already shown its commitment to providing accurate, up-to-date information, and the public has responded well,” he said.

“Now the challenge is to not only keep that community engaged, but to attract new followers. Through social media we hope to introduce canoeing to more people in all corners of Africa, and hopefully it will inspire people of all ages to try canoeing.

“The lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics will be a great opportunity for CAC to bring to the attention of all Africans the excitement of canoeing. We now have the skills and the platform to capitalise on the next 12 months.”

The CAC Facebook page can be found here.

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