CONTROVERSY marred the release of the men’s 4x100m final result after Nigeria and Mauritius were disqualified following infringements in exchanging batons.
The disqualification of Nigeria seemed to have given Zambia some hope of minting a bronze medal at the Congo Brazzaville 2015 All-Africa Games (AAG), to cap what has been a fairly good performance by the runners.
Team Zambia comprising Chidamba Hazemba, Brian Kasinda, Titus Kafunda and Sydney Siame initially finished in fourth position behind winners Ivory Coast while Nigeria were second and Namibia third in a tightly-contested race.
But Zambia, competing in lane nine, was given a lifeline when athletics stewards raised their flags after infringements of batons exchanges in lane three and eight that had Nigeria and Mauritius, respectively.
However, the decision took long as the runners and officials waited in anguish for the final results to be published on the electronic scoring machine.
The Ivorians continued with their celebrations as the Nigerians were left stunned not knowing what their fate would be.
An overzealous Hazemba upon realising the disqualification of the two countries started celebrating Zambia’s pending finish in the top three as a dejected Siame was called back into the stadium after he had walked out in anger following the fourth-place finish.
It was a long wait for both Zambians and Nigerians as results were withheld with officials and coaches still waiting for the final result by Press time Wednesday night.
But there was a twist as other countries petitioned for video footage which showed Zambia to be at fault also during the baton exchange.
Meanwhile, Siame and Lumeka Katundu reached the semi-finals of the 400m while Hazemba tumbled in the qualifying stage.
Siame timed 21.09 seconds with Hazemba clocking 21.47 seconds to miss last night’s semi-final.
In the women 4x100m relay final, Zambia, led by 400m champion Kabange Mupopo, ended in fourth position after clocking 44.97 seconds.
Nigeria raced away with gold timing 43.10 seconds followed by Ghana who minted silver after clocking 43.72 seconds while the bronze medal went to Ivory Coast on 43. 98 seconds.
In fourth place was Kenya with a time of 44.75 seconds while Team Zambia comprising Mupopo, Abygirl Sipeso, Yvonne Nalishuwa and Katunda failed to match the pace of the Nigerians.
Coach Douglas Kalembo in an interview expressed happiness that his gamble to enter the relay races paid off with fine performances from both the female and men’s teams.
Kalembo said he wanted to ensure that women athletics was promoted by seeing to it that the girls competed in various events.
“It was a fantastic race, it’s incredible to see how these youngsters can perform in their first-ever relay at such a competition. It was not easy but I am proud of what they were able to put out on the tracks and the future of the sport is very bright,” Kalembo said.
He said having relay teams was a plus for Zambia as this had not been done in a long time, and urged the runners to continue working hard by building on the experience gained at the AAG.