New African

ERITREA’S BINIAM GIRMAY BREAKS CYCLING CEILING

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The huge beaming smile of happiness told the story more than words ever could. Biniam Girmay, 21 years old, is Eritrea and Africa’s new hero.

His victory in the classic one-day cycling race in Belgium, the GentWevelg­em, is the first time a Black African has won a classic cycle race.

It marks a turning of the tides in a sport that has until very recently been vastly under-represente­d from the African continent. Girmay’s rapid and dizzying ascent to success is changing all that as fast as he is cycling his way through the ranks!

Introduced into the world of competitiv­e cycling by his cousin, Meron Teshome, a profession­al cyclist himself and several times the winner of the African Road Championsh­ips, the young Girmay has made his mentor very proud.

In 2018 he joined the World Cycling Centre, a top coaching and training outfit in Switzerlan­d. Previous African graduates of the centre include

Daniel Teklehaima­not, the first African cyclist to gain the title ‘King of the Mountains’, in the Tour de France.

In the same year

Girmay became a triple junior African cycling champion. Last year he finished second in the under-23 road race of the UCI Road World Championsh­ips, becoming the first Black African rider to win a podium place in the history of the event.

Following his win in Belgium, his next step would have been to take part in the Tour of Flanders but having been away from his wife and child for three months, he announced he would be returning home for a long-awaited family reunion and celebratio­n of his euphoric win.

Is Africa really world’s unhappiest place?

The 2022 World Happiness Report, published by the United Nations Sustainabl­e Developmen­t Solutions Network, uses data from respondent­s from 146 countries around the world to arrive at a ‘happiness’ index. The results for some African countries are startling.

The Index focuses on six main variables: “income, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on in times of trouble, generosity, freedom and trust (with the latter measured by the absence of corruption in business and government)”.

So where do Africa’s countries stand in the world happiness stakes? Based on a global average score of

5.6, African countries score an average of 4.6, making the region the unhappiest globally.

It is not all doleful news however, as Mauritius ranks at a higher-than-average

6.1, possibly a score led by their relatively healthy highincome status.

Other countries on the continent which rate higher than the region’s average include Libya at 5.3 (!),

South Africa, Gambia and Côte d’Ivoire, all at 5.2, with Morocco, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo following closely behind at 5.1. Some would argue that the rankings hardly reflect the lived reality in some of these countries.

The ‘unhappiest’ country is Zimbabwe, with a happiness score of just 3.

This perhaps reflects the fact an estimated 6.1m people live under the internatio­nal poverty line.

With a score of 7.8 and for the fifth year in a row, Finland is rated as the happiest in the world, followed closely by the other Nordic territorie­s – Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland.

 ?? Below: Eritrea's Biniam Girmay of the Intermarch­éWanty-Gobert Matériaux racing team celebrates victory as he crosses the nish line of the men's Gent-Wevelgem race in Belgium ??
Below: Eritrea's Biniam Girmay of the Intermarch­éWanty-Gobert Matériaux racing team celebrates victory as he crosses the nish line of the men's Gent-Wevelgem race in Belgium

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