YEAR IN REVIEW: Mixed bag of goodies for Kenya at IAAF World Championships


Geoffrey Kirui winning the IAAF World Championships London 2017 marathon title (PHOTO/IAAF/Getty Images)
(FILE)Geoffrey Kirui winning the IAAF World Championships London 2017 marathon title (PHOTO/IAAF/Getty Images)

The IAAF World Championships in London was a mixed bag of goodies for Team Kenya as new champions emerged while others relinquished their coveted titles at the biennial show piece.

Though Kenya lost the overall title which it had claimed in Beijing, China, where it bagged a total of 16 medals, Team Kenya still stood tall in the competition.

Geoffrey Kirui won the 2017 world men’s marathon title – becoming Kenya’s fifth champion in the event – after winning a testing duel in the sun with Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola over the four-loop course that began and ended on Tower Bridge, where he finished in 2:08:27.

In so doing, the 2017 Boston Marathon winner extended his country’s record as the most successful nation in the history of this event at the IAAF World Championships as  Tamirat Tola (2:09:49) of Ethiopia and Alphonce Felix Simbu (2:09:51) of Tanzania finished second and third.

Kenyan born Bahraini, Rose Chelimo (2:27:11) made history for her adopted nation as she earned her country its first ever gold in the women’s marathon at the World Championships in a slow-burning race that flared into dramatic life over the final seven kilometres as she won a personal duel with Kenya’s 2011 and 2013 winner Edna Kiplagat (2:27:18), who in turn secured silver by a stride from the fast-finishing US runner Amy Cragg (2:27:18).

In the track and field, Elijah Managoi dethroned three time- champion Asbel Kiprop from the 1,500m throne as he took home his first global title. Manangoi took top honours in 3:33.61 in a tight finish against his training partner and team mate Timothy Cheruiyot who settled for silver in 3:33.99, followed closely by Norwegian Filip Ingebrigtsen (3:34.53).

Kenya's Elijah Motonei Manangoi celebrates winning the final of the men's 1500m athletics event at the 2017 IAAF World Championships at the London Stadium in London on August 13, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Adrian DENNIS
(FILE)Kenya’s Elijah Motonei Manangoi celebrates winning the final of the men’s 1500m athletics event at the 2017 IAAF World Championships at the London Stadium in London on August 13, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Adrian DENNIS

In the women’s race, Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon was unfazed by the presence of South Africa’s two-time Olympic and three-time 800m World champion Caster Semenya who was doubling up in her event and 1,500m world record holder and defending champion Genzebe Dibaba.

In a very well calculated and fast race, Kipyegon reigned supreme, upgrading her world silver from 2015 to gold in 4:02.59, 0.17 clear of US champion Jenny Simpson (4:02.76) and Semenya (4:02.90). Third coming down the home straight, Great Britain’s Laura Muir ultimately missed out on a medal by 0.07, clocking 4:02.97 for fourth.

With 200 metres to go, Kipyegon and the Netherlands’ World Indoor champion Sifan Hassan – the fastest in the world this year with 3:56.14 – were battling it out at the head of a field, as Muir chased hard behind in third.

However, Olympic bronze medallist Simpson got it tactically right once again, passing Muir on the inside to win her third World 1500m medal after her gold in 2011 and silver in 2013. Meanwhile, Semenya showed some of her 1:55.27 two-lap speed to also pass Muir – and a dying Hassan – just metres before the line, as 2015 world bronze medallist Hassan held on for fifth in 4:03.34.

Olympic champion Conseslus Kiproto braved a nagging ankle injury to win the men’s 3,000m steeplechase event in 8:14.12, ahead of Soufiane Elbakkali Marmar (8:14.49) of Morocco and American Evan Jager (8:15.53) who settled for silver and bronze respectively, while Kipruto’s counterparts made a costly mistake that produced an unlikely sight of a 1-2 for the United States in the women’s 3000m steeplechase, courtesy of the inspired Emma Coburn (9:02.58) and Courtney Frerichs (9:03.77). Defending champion Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi settled for bronze in 9:04.03.

Kenya's Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon celebrates winning the final of the women's 1,500m athletics event at the 2017 IAAF World Championships at the London Stadium in London on August 7, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMAD
Kenya’s Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon celebrates winning the final of the women’s 1,500m athletics event at the 2017 IAAF World Championships at the London Stadium in London on August 7, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMAD

Rio Olympic silver medallist Hellen Obiri had a good day in office after stunning and denying Ethiopia’s Olympic and 10,000m world record holder Almaz Ayana, the much vaunted long distance double.

Ayana ground the field into submission in the 10,000m on the second day of the championships and she made her intent clear in the 5000m final with a fourth lap of 65.57, followed by 66.21 for the fifth lap. These lap times represented world record pace for the distance but Obiri was more than content – and confident enough – to sit in her slipstream while the field splintered behind the leaders.

Obiri tactically continued with Vivian Cheruiyot’s golden streak by stopping the timer at 14:34.86, while Ayana was forced to settle for silver in 14:40.35 followed by Ethiopian born Dutch Sifan Hassan who took home bronze in 14:42.73.

“I was telling myself to go. I could see Ayana was not going so I thought, ‘why not?’ So I said, ‘go’. I am mentally strong so I knew I was capable,” Obiri told the IAAF. “When I crossed the line I was extremely happy, and just wanted to celebrate. All my emotions came out. I wanted the 5000m gold a lot.”

Gold medallist Kenya's Hellen Onsando Obiri poses on the podium during the victory ceremony for the women's 5000m athletics event at the 2017 IAAF World Championships at the London Stadium in London on August 13, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Glyn KIRK
Gold medallist Kenya’s Hellen Onsando Obiri poses on the podium during the victory ceremony for the women’s 5000m athletics event at the 2017 IAAF World Championships at the London Stadium in London on August 13, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Glyn KIRK

Sadly, their compatriots in the men’s event performed poorly just like last year at the Olympics Games in Brazil where Kenya had no representative or a podium finish in either of the competitions.

The absence of two time-Olympic and two-time World champion David Rudisha was largely felt in London after suffering a hip injury few weeks to the competition. Nevertheless, the two-time Diamond League winner Ferguson Rotich, World Junior champion Kipyegon Bett, Emmanuel Kipkurui Korir represented the country. Rotich, Korir kissed the championships goodbye before reaching the finals while 19 year old Bett consoled the country with a bronze medal  after stopping the timer at 1:45.21.  As French Pierre-Ambroise Bosse (1:44.67) and Polish Adam Kszczot (1:44.95) took gold and silver respectively.

Additional reporting by IAAF

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