World champs Yego, Sum star as Eldoret AK meet ends
A show-stopping performance from world men Javelin champion, Julius Yego and commanding victories from 2013 Moscow gold medallist, Eunice Sum as well as men 3000m steeplechase stars, Jairus Birech and Conseslus Kipruto highlighted the close of the well-attended sixth and final AK Track and Field Series meeting in Eldoret on Saturday.
The 2007 All Africa Games women steeplechase titleholder, Ruth Bosibori and 2012 IAAF Diamond League winner, Nixon Chepseba enjoyed resounding comeback victories as the self styled ‘County of Champions’ came out in force to celebrate the athletes who have brought it global acclaim.
Beijing world champions, Ezekiel Kemboi (men 3000m steeplechase), Asbel Kiprop (men 800m) and Nicholas Bett (men 400m Hurdles) had earlier added star-dust to the three-day affair on Thursday and Friday setting the stage for Yego and Sum to lap up the adulation on Saturday.
And they did not disappoint.
Against severe headwind, Yego’s Javelin pierced the air under sunny but cool conditions to a best effort of 78.86m to officially launch the season he hopes to make history as the first Kenyan Olympics field champion this summer.
Each of his throws invited wild cheering and Yego later admitted he had purposely come to give the locals a show before embarking on his quest to clinch the Olympics crown.
“Throwing 78.86m here today is a good start and I hope by next month, I will be in top shape. To me the greatest feeling as an athlete is when you are competing in the home ground. It’s very good when you have such a crowd. When people cheer you, you get psyched up.
“I like the people of this place because they always recognise their champions and for it was a big honour they were cheering when I was throwing,” the two-time African and former All Africa Games Champion said in reciprocating the love with Moi Airbase pair of Gilbert Bett (69.67m) and Nicholas Kosgei (62.85m) shared the podium with him in the silver and bronze positions.
Taking the women 800m final in the penultimate race of the programme, Sum crashed Prisons champion, Sylvia Chesebe (2:04.4) who was her closest challenger with 300m to go over the homestretch to win in 2:03.2 with Eglay Nalianya (2:04.8) taking third.
“My home is only three kilometres from here and I had some of my family watching and I wanted to give them something to cheer, it was a good race. I’m not in top shape yet but I’m in the shape to compete well at the start of the season,” the Moscow 2013 women’s world champion told.
She is scheduled to kick-start her international season at the IAAF Diamond League meetings of Doha and Rabat before she returns home to intensify training for Rio where she is bidding to be the second Kenyan woman after Pamela Jelimo to bag the women’s two-lap Olympics crown.
Birech, who has won a hat-trick of IAAF Diamond League steeplechase titles and 2014 Commonwealth silver won the second final of the men 10000m in 28:35.7 that was the quickest of the day with Beijing silver medallist Kipruto taking the first race in 29:17.5 that was the fourth overall best.
“I was using the 10000m to prepare for the steeplechase by getting mileage. This year, I have trained enough for the Olympics,” Birech said.
African champion and record holder, Grace Wanjiru won the women 20km Race walking title in 1:48:16 ahead of Linda Murugi (1:52:54) and Esther Murugi (1:58:19) sealing the podium in an event where locals did not feature prominently.
Timothy Cheruiyot who was a finalist at the Beijing Worlds won the men 1500m in 3:36.8 with Edwin Kiptoo (3:38.3) and Matthew Kiptanui (3:38.7) taking silver and bronze.
Focus now turns to the disciplined forces championships with the National Police Service holding theirs first on Thursday and Friday in Nairobi.
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