Top 10 Female African Athletes in 2023 (10-6)

As the 2023 athletics season reaches its conclusion, it’s that time again to analyze the metrics and compile a ranking of the finest African athletes. We’ll delve into their remarkable performances and explore the reasons they’ve earned their place on our prestigious list.

From the thrilling indoor season that marked the year’s beginning to the grand stage of the World Championships in Budapest, and culminating with the exhilarating Diamond League series in Oregon, African athletes showcased their extraordinary talents and proved their mettle against the world’s best, emerging as dominant forces in their respective disciplines.

Our annual countdown commences here, where we meticulously assess the standout female African athletes of 2023, celebrating their remarkable achievements.

10. Beatrice Chebet 

When Kenya’s Beatrice Chebet burst into the limelight at the World U20 Championships in Tampere in 2018, it wasn’t until 2022 that the diminutive runner began to show signs of her precocious nature as she captured the 5000m African Title in Mauritius and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. 

Beatrice Chebet takes the W5000m title, photo by Diamond League AG.

Now at the ripe age of 23, Chebet needed a statement win against the established order to be talked about in the running sphere, and it came at the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, Australia, this year. Chebet, the U20 world cross-country champion in 2019, won senior gold in 33:48, overpowering pre-race Ethiopian favorite Letesenbet Gidey, who fell and was disqualified meters from the finish.

After the race, Chebet said she was not bothered by Gidey shadowing her so closely and that the bravery she showed to win had given her a massive confidence boost. It put her in the best frame of mind going into the season. 

As the track season commenced, Chebet transitioned seamlessly, displaying her versatility. She excelled in the 3000m and 5000m events, winning several Diamond League races and setting new Personal Bests along the way. Her times consistently ranked among the top in the world, making her a formidable competitor.

However, her most significant achievement came at the World Championships in Budapest. Chebet approached the 5000m final with determination, fully aware of the tough competition she would face in the mold of Faith Kipyegon, Sifan Hassan, and Gudaf Tsegay.

In a closely contested race, she executed a tactically brilliant performance. With a powerful sprint finish in the closing meters, she secured Bronze in 14:54.33, falling behind Kipyegon and Hassan with less than half a lap to go. Chebet ended her season at the Diamond League final in Oregon, clocking a new PB of 14:05.92 to finish second behind newly minted world record holder Tsegay.

9. Amane Beriso

Amane Beriso, the Ethiopian long-distance runner, enjoyed an outstanding 2023 season, showcasing her exceptional talent and endurance in her two marathon races. Her journey culminated in a remarkable Gold medal victory in the women’s marathon at the World Championships in Budapest, following a memorable second-place finish at the prestigious Boston Marathon earlier in the year.

Amane Beriso takes Valencia, photo by Valencia Marathon LOC

Beriso’s 2023 campaign began with great promise, setting high expectations for her performances throughout the season. She quickly made her mark in the competitive world of marathons, revealing her potential as a formidable contender.

At the Boston Marathon, one of the most prestigious and iconic races in the world, Beriso put up an impressive display. She finished second in 2:21:50, narrowly trailing behind Hellen Obiri, who won the race. This remarkable achievement at Boston solidified her reputation as a top-tier marathoner.

However, it was at the World Championships in Budapest that Beriso truly shone. In the women’s marathon, she executed a brilliant race strategy that allowed her to secure the Gold. Beriso powered through the city streets of Budapest to finish in a time of 2:24:23s to edge defending champion and teammate Gotytom Gebreslase by 11s. 

Her performance in Budapest earned her a well-deserved place on the top of the podium, marking a defining moment in her career. This Gold was not only a personal triumph but also a significant milestone for Ethiopian athletics.

8. Beatrice Chepkoech 

What a way to come back to reckoning for Beatrice Chepkoech! The Steeplechase world record holder had been on a downward spiral since finishing seventh at the Olympic Games final in 2021. This year, however, has seen her jump back to reckoning with her fine performance in her signature event. 

After not making Kenya’s team to the world championships in Oregon in 2022, Chepkoech, the world record holder picked up the pieces and put together a series of fine races leading up to the world championships in Budapest in August.

Wanda Diamond League
London Athletics Meet
July 23, 2023, London, England, U.K., photo by Kevin Morris

Although Chepkoech ran the 5000m a few times in June to help with her endurance levels, it wasn’t until the Kenyan trials in early July in which she ran a very fast 9:09.43 for the Steeplechase that many began to put her as a potential contender to win the title she had first won at the world championships in Doha in 2019. 

Leading up to the world championships in Budapest, Chepkoech knew Wilfred Yavi of Bahrain would be the major stumbling block to her making her comeback to the title. And it proved so as Yavi stalked her in the final in Budapest for all but one lap of the women’s 3,000m steeplechase, surging past the Kenyan over the final 400m to capture Gold. Chepkoech crossed the line in 8:58.98 to take silver.  

Chepkoech ended her season with second-place finishes at the Diamond League in Zurich and the final in Oregon, with Yavi beating her to the win in both instances. Regardless, the Kenyan will take solace in the fact that she ended the season with an 8:51.67, a time that’s knocking on her world record.

7. Hellen Obiri

If versatility was a sprinter, then very few people would find it difficult to point towards Hellen Obiri. The Kenyan has won everything there is to win on the track and is now trying her hands in the marathon. When she made her debut at the New York Marathon in 2022, it wasn’t what she would have hoped as she finished sixth. However, this year, there was no stopping her as she picked up two wins in two world marathon majors. 

The journey since taking up the marathon hasn’t been easy for Obiri. The 33-year-old left husband Tom and daughter Tania back in Kenya last year to join her coach, retired American athlete Dathan Ritzenhein.

Hellen Obiri, NYC Marathon, photo by Kevin Morris

However, when she lined up in Boston earlier in the year, both Obiri’s mentality and mantra had changed. Patience was key… well, at least for 99 percent of the race. With the finish line almost in sight, Obiri turned to the muscle memory of her on-track victories, which also include two Olympic silver medals, opening up her stride to break free of the pack in a race for victory in 2:21.38.

Perhaps the biggest win came in New York in November, when she took on another stellar field, and potentially made amends for her sixth-place finish last year. The women’s race at this year’s New York City Marathon went out slowly and finished in a sprint.

With a final burst of speed after the 26-mile mark, Obiri still emerged as the winner, breaking the tape in Central Park in 2:27:23. Obiri’s winning time was the slowest in New York since 2010. She said she thought about making a move earlier but decided against it. “A marathon is about patience,” she said. “In New York, it’s not about time; it’s about winning the race.”

6. Tobi Amusan

What a year 2023 Tobi Amusan has had! Ups, downs, and Ups.. it’s been a rollercoaster, really. The Nigerian sprint hurdler and world record holder in the 100m hurdles embarked on an eventful 2023 season that saw her face numerous ups and downs before concluding the year on a high note.

At the beginning of the season, Amusan needed to find her rhythm and build her form to achieve the outstanding results she had her sights on, coming off the back of the unprecedented year she had in 2022.

Tobi Amusan takes the 100m hurdles, photo by Deji Ogeyingbo.

After a few shaky results, Amusan’s season took a promising turn as she reached her peak in the mid-season events. In consecutive competitions, she clocked impressive times of 12.34s and 12.35s at the Silesia and Gyulai István Memorial meets. These performances highlighted her remarkable consistency and the rapid progress she was making as the season unfolded.

Nevertheless, a significant setback loomed on the horizon when Amusan faced adversity at the World Championships in Budapest. She was initially unable to compete due to complications related to her clearance by the Athletics Integrity Unit. The hurdles world record holder was finally allowed to participate but faced the challenging task of finding her form amidst the uncertainty.

Despite the obstacles, Amusan displayed unwavering determination and resilience, even if her sixth-place finish at the world championships was not what she had hoped for. Her journey through the season’s trials made her stronger and more focused.

To close out the season on a high note, Tobi Amusan defended her Diamond League title in Oregon with a season’s best performance of 12.33s. This victory was a testament to her incredible resolve and dedication, showcasing her ability to rise above adversity and deliver exceptional performances when it matters most.