BEIJING - One by one, African athletes at the Beijing Olympics have fallen by the wayside, with most not going beyond preliminary rounds four days into the Games.
With the exception of Zimbabweâ€™s swimmer Kirsty Coventry, who has collected two silvers, Algeriaâ€™s Soraya Haddad who won bronze in the 52 kg judo, and Togoâ€™s Benjamin Boukpeti who got bronze in men's singles kayak slalom, there have been no Africans on the podium.
â€œThe level of competition was very tough,â€ Senegalâ€™s Keita Mamadou, the only African fencer in the second round of the menâ€™s individual sabre, said.
Medal hopes are high for the continent in the athletics, mainly taking place in the second week of the Games. Kenya, for example, is targeting at least six golds.
But competitors in tennis, badminton and canoeing have been beaten, including those from South Africa, which boasts the best sporting facilities on the continent. South Africa and Nigeria have the biggest African teams for Beijing, with 142 and 89 athletes respectively.
Some participants blame poor technical support and a lack of finance for the lacklustre performance.
â€œFinance is also a big challenge. If you do not pay well, do not expect too much from them.â€ said Muatara Kaunda, boxing coach for Namibia.
Nigerian-born Francis Obikwelu started running for Portugal in 2000, frustrated with the difficulties of earning a living as an athlete in Africa.
Ugandaâ€™s press attache Norman Katende told Reuters their medallists would get â€œsome kind of rewardâ€.
â€œWe do not want to put them under pressure so we do not tell them, but they will get something,â€ he said, not disclosing the amount.