Daegu, South Korea, August 27 – On the day Kenya marked exactly one year since ushering the new birth of the nation with the promulgation of the new constitution, their athletics ambassadors at the 13th World Championships delivered the most colourful ceremony to mark the occasion.
In a performance that echoed the spectacular opening ceremony that South Korea threw to mark the start of the event on Saturday afternoon here, Vivian Cheruiyot, Sally Kipyego, Linet Masai and Priscah Jepleting, made the women 10000m final a domestic affair by filling the top four positions in that order.
It was a display of distance running supremacy that left the packed Daegu Sports Stadium in awe, just as earlier in the day when the Central Business District of the same city awoke to acclaim the women marathoners who completed the podium sweep.
After a shadow boxing opening laps where United States medal hopeful, Sharlane Flanagan did the early front running, going through the opening 3000m in splits of 3:13.5, 6:23.5 and 9:32.4 in the lead, defending champion, Masai decided to push the pace as she nosed in front.
Masai, who had declared her intentions pre-race to hammer down the field took the runners through the next 2km in intervals of 12:42.6 and 15:47.5 before teammate Kipyego took over with the leader, Cheruiyot and Jepleting in close attendance.
At this point, the 2007 world champion over 5000m and one of the feared trio of Ethiopian distance running, Meseret Defar had dropped off the pace and subsequently registered a disappointing DNF, a blot in her illustrious CV.
Determined to hold on to her title to the last, the Berlin winner again re-took the lead with her teammates just strides apart as Ethiopian pair, Meselech Melkamu, the 2008 African champion and Shitaye Eshete of Bahrain gave spirited chase.
Only Melkamu blotted the red, green and black hue in the leading pack in the final 2000m in the race where Cheruiyot, then Kipyego, zoomed past the leader two and a half laps to the finish.
At the bell, Cheruiyot taxied away from the rest but Kipyego, who had pledged to unleash a surprise hared after the Berlin and World Cross champion at the back straight. With the fans rising for a final roar, the diminutive Cheruiyot deployed the afterburners to arrive home arms stretched for victory.
The clock read 30:48.98, a lifetime best over the distance but more crucially, her second 10000m race of her career brought the biggest medal for her and the nation as the new ruler of the women 25-laps sunk on the track in a quick thanks to the Almighty.
“This is a great day for Kenya, our girls have been excellent and the nation is also celebrating one year since we got a new constitution. We watched what the marathoners did in the morning and told ourselves we will do the same and when I looked back and saw my teammates, I was filled with so much joy,” Cheruiyot said.
With the first part of her double gold medal assault accomplished in style and grace, she was quick to draw the line on the partying.
“I have two days to recover before running my race and I hope I will be fresh since I want to defend my title. I have to be ready for the semi finals,” she added.
The joy painted on Kipyego’s face after her maiden Team Kenya appearance at a World Championships yielded the second medal was akin to the elaborate firework display that livened up the Daegu skies during the opening ceremony.
“I’m absolutely delighted! I’m more than happy, in fact, I’m beyond grateful and I owe so many people for this. I will leave here knowing I gave my best on the track as I had promised and competing with such great girls and coming out with a medal shows my belief in dreams coming true are real,” the Oregon based nurse who clocked 30:40.04 for the bridesmaid position enthused.
Masai, who came home to seal the podium shut-out in a season’s best 30:53.59 once again experienced the bitter pill of coming so close yet to far to command the headlines.
In March Cheruiyot out-sprinted her to gold at the World Cross in Punta Umbria following in Emily Chebet and Florence Kiplagat’s footsteps that did likewise in the Bydgoszcz 2010 and Amman 2009 editions.
“I have only one problem, finishing. I’m going back to prepare and work on it for the London Olympics where I want to run 10000m,” the supplanted champion said.
Jepleting, who is returning to the Worlds after maternal break clocked a personal best of 30:46.53 in what was also her second career 10,000m ahead of Meselech (30:56.55) to complete the top five.
It was a day to savour as the Kenyan girls who ensured their nation entered the Worlds record books as the first nation to win six medals on the opening day.
Edna Kiplagat, Priscah Jeptoo and Sharon Cherop gave the red, green and black brigade the perfect start by completing the marathon sweep, another first at this event.
“The performance of the women here today has put the men under such pressure when they start. No one would have dreamed of such a start and we hope it will be the start of better things,” Athletics Kenya (AK) general secretary, David Okeyo, who was elected the head of the IAAF Cross Country Committee told Capital Sport.
Who said the number 13 was jinxed?
– Mutwiri Mutuota is reporting for Capital FM from Daegu, South Korea
1. Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot KEN 30:48.98 (PB)
2. Sally Kipyego KEN 30:50.04
3. Linet Chepkwemoi Masai KEN 30:53.59 (SB)
4. Priscah Jepleting Cherono KEN 30:56.43 (PB)
5. Meselech Melkamu ETH 30:56.55 (SB)
6. Shitaye Eshete BRN 31:21.57 (NR)
7. Shalane Flanagan USA 31:25.57
8. Ana Dulce Félix POR 31:37.03
9. Jennifer Rhines USA 31:47.59
10. Jessica Augusto POR 32:06.68