Tokyo-bound Mathis Soudi and Celia Jodar set to make Olympic history for Africa

Soudi and Jodar both successfully qualified for Tokyo 2020 when they finished their respective qualifiers as the fastest African athletes in the race, creating a watershed moment for the continent. 

By Courtney Hill
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

For Moroccan duo, Mathis Soudi and Celia Jodar, history beckons.

Tokyo 2020 is poised to become the first Olympic Games in which both a male and female athlete from Africa will compete in canoe slalom.

Africa has been consistently represented at the Games since Morocco's Nizar Samlal competed in the K1 at Sydney 2000, with Benjamin Boukpeti of Togo giving the continent their best ever finish when he picked up Bronze at Beijing 2008 in the K1 final.

Successful qualifiers in Spain

Both Soudi and Jodar attended the Olympic qualifiers in La Seu, Spain in March 2021, where four quotas were available to African nations.

A fitting return to La Seu, which was also location of canoe slalom at Barcelona 1992 where Gary Wade previously made history by becoming the first African athlete to compete in the event.

Athletes would compete to fill the spots on offer for K1 men and women (single kayak) and C1 men and women's (single canoe) events.

Soudi impressed in the K1 men's final, where he finished second, just 1.56 seconds behind Russian Pavel Eigel.

He will become the first male athlete to represent Morocco in the K1 event since Samlal in Sydney.

"I'm really happy to have earned this sport for Tokyo 2021," he said.

"I've waited a really long time for this race, so to have achieved this is great."

For Jodar, a first Olympic Games was on the line in qualification after she missed out on Rio 2016 finishing behind teammate Hind Jamili.

Despite finishing 19th, she was still the fastest African competitor in the race and secured her place at Tokyo 2020.

After creating a historic moment for both country and continent together, Soudi and Jodar will now embark on what will be their Olympic Games debuts when they fly to Tokyo next month.