More than 200 runners took part in the much-awaited July 22 Marathon Wednesday winning a windfall of cash and glittering trophies as prizes.
They event took the form of a half marathon, a 15km for girls and 10km for students. Some of The Gambia’s best runners and part timers enjoyed a sunny late afternoon dash to the Banjul Arch where they picked up prizes in front of VIPs and spectators. The spectacle on the Banjul Highway thrilled crowds from Lamin to Kanifing as the runners waved past in colourful groups.
Controversy however erupted after Paralympians and disabled cyclists were declared winners in the 21kms event ran mostly by able-bodied distance runners. Samba Bah from the Gambia Police claimed he should be the gold medalist because he beat all able-bodied runners only to be declared second behind a Paralympian, who had started the race at a different time and place.
The management committee of the event were widely criticised for not separating the races. That aside all athletes who mounted podium returned with smiles after receiving huge cash prizes and trophies.
Demba Jarjue the Paralympian who competed in 21km in 1hour, 12 minutes said he was excited to participate though he admitted it was not an easy race.
The Gambia long distance queen Mariama Jallow, who completed 15km in 58 minutes, 16 seconds said: “I thank the Almighty Allah for completing the race and I was very optimistic that I will win the game because of the constant trainings I had prior to the competition.” She won D25,000 as cash while the silver and bronze medalists in her event got 15 and 10,000 respectively.
Etchen Obega winner of the 10km for boys, a student of St Peter’s Senior Secondary School completed in 43 minutes, 2 seconds and said: “This is my first experience contesting in a marathon and I am so happy to have taken gold here. I wish to represent The Gambia to international level.”
Tiny and fleet-footed Nyima Marong winner of the 10km for girls and a student of Muslim Senior Secondary School completed in 57 minutes, 12 seconds and said self-confidence helped her to achieve the feat. All the winners received cash prizes ranging from D35,000 to D500 consolation prizes. The organisers and athletes all thanked President Jammeh for the encouragement he has given to the national athletes and the promotion of long distance running in The Gambia. The event was supervised by the chairman of the national organising committee of the July 22 anniversary celebrations, Mass Axi Gye and graced by sports minister Alieu Jammeh, Mayor Yankuba Colley of KMC and Energy minister Saja Sanneh among other dignitaries.
Below are the full report from the race:
1. Demba Jarjue Paralympic 1:12:00
2. Samba Bah Gambia Police Force 1:16:01
3. Malang Tamba Paralympic 1:18:00
1. Mariama T Jallow Gambia Police Force 58:16:08
2. Isatou Nyang Paralympic 1:02:25
3. Sona Saho Gambia Police Force 1:02:29
1. Etchen Obega St. Peter’s Senior Secondary School
2. Omar Kah Farafenni Senior Secondary School
3. Edrissa Marong Bottrop Senior Secondary School
1. Nyima Marong Muslim Senior Secondary School
2. Adama Colley Nusrat Senior Secondary School
3. Ola Buwaro Muslim Senior Secondary School