Wanjiru, Gathimba walk to records, Jeruto shines
Kenya signed off her campaign at the 20th CAA Senior Championships in Durban, South Africa in forceful fashion on Sunday when peerless Grace Wanjiru and Samuel Gathimba walked to records while Norah Jeruto added a third gold medal in the women 3000m steeplechase.
Maureen Jelagat, Timothy Cheruiyot and Agnes Chesang scooped silver medals in the women 400m Hurdles, men 1500m and women’s steeple finals whilst world champion, Julius Yego, has company in the men Javelin after Alex Kiprotich won the third medal in the field event.
Vincent Letting and Emily Cherotich also took bronze in the men 1500m and women 800m as the track and field action wrapped up at the King Power Stadium.
The sizzling performances headlined by a record sixth African title for the peerless Wanjiru saw Kenya’s ‘B-team’ close the competition with 21 medals-eight gold, seven silver and six bronze to move a place up the medal charts to second after the hosts.
Considering most top athletes skipped the continental event, the Durban 2016 class distinguished itself since in Marrakech, Morocco two years ago when they had a much better squad, Kenya finished third behind South Africa and Nigeria with 25- seven gold, eight silver and 10 bronze.
Kenya clinched the 20km Race walking double for the first time since 2006 when Wanjiru held on to the title for an unprecedented sixth time in a new African record as Gathimba celebrated his first with a sparkling national record on Sunday morning with both qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympics Games in Brazil.
Wanjiru added gloss to her 1:30:43 victory when she annihilated her previous African record of 1:35:05 to smash through the Rio 2016 qualifying mark of 1:36:00 leaving her cherished dream of competing at her first Olympics at the hands of selectors who will name the team on Friday after the Eldoret Trials.
The Africa Race walking queen shared the podium with Ethiopia’s Mituku Yehualeye Beleew who won silver in 1:31:58 and Tunisia’s Nasri Chahinez who clocked 1:34:45 for the bronze to qualify for Rio. Fifth placed Linda Waweru (1:39:23) missed Olympics qualification.
Gathimba crushed the 1:20:40 Kenyan record held by the recently retired two-time Olympian, David Kimutai as well as going under the Rio 2016 qualifying mark of 1:24:00 after upgrading from silver two years ago in Marrakech, Morocco.
The All Africa Games silver winner walked to gold in a new national standard of 1:19:24 to relegate Tunisia’s Hassenine Sebei (1:20:57) and South Africa’s Lebogang Shange (1:21:41) to the lesser medals with teammate Simon Wachira (1:19:24) finishing fifth in a lifetime best and also inside the Rio mark.
The last time Kenya clinched the Race walking double was at the 2006 edition in Bambous, Mauritius where Wanjiru and Kimutai won their first continental crowns.
Jeruto, the 2011 World Youth champion, won her first senior title and blessed the event with a new championship record when she lead compatriot Chesang to the 1-2 in the women’s 3000m steeplechase to restore ‘order’ after their male counterparts lost the title on the second day of the competition.
Jeruto motored around the King Park Stadium’s water and barriers to stop the clock in 9:25.07, that set a new standard with Chesang following home in 9:27.22 as Ethiopia’s Weyneshet Ansa (9:39.89) took the bronze.
Beijing Worlds seventh finisher and Rabat Diamond League winner, Cheruiyot was beaten to silver by Morocco’s Fouad Kaam who eclipsed the Kenyan in a vest-to-vest finish to the men 1500m race.
The clocks returned 3:39.49 against 3:39.71 in favour of the winner as Letting closed the podium in 3:40.78.
Jelagat’s hopes of completing the Kenyan double in the 400m Hurdles were curtailed by South Africa’s Wanda Nel who took gold in 54.86 to lead the national champion who ran 56.12 to the altar as Tameka Jameson of Nigeria (58.60) settled for the third medal.
Kiprotich became the third Kenyan after two-time continental champion Yego and 2008 bronze winner, Sammy Keskeny to clinch a men Javelin a medal at the biennial championships when he threw 74.08m for the third medal.
South Africa’s Philmar van Rensburg succeeded Yego as African champion with 76.04m as Ghana’s John Ampomah (75.22m) took silver.
As expected, the women 800m gold medal went to home favourite, Caster Semenya who left the field for dead and blasted to 1:58.20 with Morocco’s Malika Akkaouiu leading the challengers home in 2:00.24 as Cherotich (2:00.70) worked to get the third medal ahead of teammate and the more seasoned Sylvia Chesebe (2:01.43) who sealed the top four.
-Additional reporting by Charity Wanja
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