Choge, Nyairera spare Kenya’s blushes in Portland
Team captain, Augustine Choge and Margaret Wambui Nyairera spared Kenya’s blushes at the IAAF World Indoor Championships that closed in the early hours of Monday in Portland, Oregon as the country finished 25th overall with two bronze medals.
Ethiopia, with two gold, two silver and a bronze topped the African charts and second overall behind hosts United States of America who swept the charts with 23 medals (13 gold, six silver and four bronze).
Kenya, who won the outdoors World Championships in Beijing, China last summer, were also outshone by strife-torn neighbours Burundi who finished fifth in Portland after winning a gold and silver in what ranks as the worst outing at an international event for the distance running powerhouses in recent times.
Choge, who was returning to the biennial closed-circuit competition showpiece since winning silver at the 2012 edition in Istanbul, furiously attacked for the 3000m title over the last lap but in the end Ethiopia’s teenager, Yomif Kejelcha and America’s Ryan Hill beat him to top two medals in a tight finish.
Kenya’s other medal in Portland was won by World Junior champion and debutant, Margaret Nyairera who also settled for bronze in the women 800m final as the country’s much heralded squad failed to hit the heights.
Choge went in for the 3000m final as a favourite after enjoying a blistering indoor circuit season in a strong Kenyan squad that had defending champion, Caleb Mwangangi Ndiku and Isaiah Kiplangat Koech.
Koech lead through to 1600m before compatriot and defending champion Ndiku briefly showed at the front. With just over five laps to go, Djibouti’s Youssouf Hiss Bachir then took his turn directing proceedings, hitting the 2000m checkpoint in 5:43.33.
Bachir and Ndiku continued to control the pace at the front for the next two laps although, behind them, Choge was steadily moving through the field in anticipation of striking for home over the last two laps.
However, Kejelcha beat him to the punch and took first place with 400 metres to go.
As the runners went through their gears, the leading five of Kejelcha, Choge, Morocco’s Abdalaati Iguider, Ndiku, and USA’s Ryan Hill started to separate themselves from the rest of the field and passed the bell in the order.
Kejecha hugged the curb and wisely refused to give way or allow any gap on the inside while in full flight over the final lap.
As the teenage Ethiopian came off the last bend with 50 metres to go he was attacked by Choge and Hill, the latter having to come the long way around.
However, Kejelcha has a ferocious turn of speed in the final stages of races and managed to repel their challenges, crossing the line in 7:57.21, with Hill coming through to take the silver in 7:57.39; just edging out Choge (7:57.43), who was 0.04 further back.
Mwangangi’s title defence ended in a fifth placed finish in 7:58.81 just behind Iguider (7:58.04) whilst Koech ran 8:01.70 for eighth, one below Kenyan born Paul Kipkemboi (8:00.76) Chelimo who was running for the home nation.
In the corresponding women’s decider, there was no stopping Genzebe Dibaba who collected her second World Indoor title in 8:47.43 as she led former champion aand compatriot, Meseret Defar (8:54.26) to complete a dominant Ethiopian 1-2.
US based Betsy Saina, Kenya’s hope in the event, stopped the timer at 9:01.86 for seventh while her compatriot, Nancy Chepkwemoi (9:07.63) was tenth.
In the women 800m final, Nyairera moved into the lead on the backstretch of the second lap, but her front running was short lived. By the end of that lap, having covered 400m in 1:00.56, Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba took up the running at the front.
With 1:29.78 on the clock as the bell sounded for the final lap, Niyonsaba had built up a lead of about two or three metres as she began to kick. America’s Ajee Wilson had the Kenyan in her sights and gradually began to close on her.
Niyonsaba, though, was out in front as she approached the finish, crossing the line in 2:00.01. Wilson passed Wambui in the closing stages to take silver in 2:00.27 while Wambui held on for a PB of 2:00.44 in third on her senior debut for her country.
In the men 1500m final, Vincent Kibet ran 3:45.17 for seventh where America’s Matthew Centrowitz (3:44.22) claimed the gold and in the corresponding women’s race, another US based athlete, Viola Lagat (4:10.45) placed second from last when featuring in her first final for her country in a race won by Netherlands’s Sifan Hassan (4:04.96).
Sprinter Boniface Mweresa who finished fifth (46.86) in Saturday’s 400m final was the only other Kenyan to run in a medal race.
Athletics Kenya selected ten athletes for Portland that departed with a lot of promise only to be given warning that a shift in distance running power is shifting.
-Story sourced from iaaf.org
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