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Chebwogen ‘mercifully’ strikes gold

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BARCELONA, Spain, July 11- Mercy Chebwogen struck Kenya her first gold in the ongoing World Junior Championships in Barcelona when she retained the country’s women 3000m crown.

Chebwogen safely kept the event’s top medal in Kenyan hands for a fifth successive Championships but herself and runner up Hiwot Gebrekidan of Ethiopia were made to fight every inch of the way for their medals by Emelia Gorecka.

On a night of 11 personal bests including those from the three medallists, Chebwogen produced a decisive sprint over the final 200m to win in a time of 9:08.88 while Gebrekidan who got past a determined Gorecka of Great Britain 25m from the line, recorded 9:09.27.

Ironically, the gold medal not only remains in Kenya but also still belongs to a ‘Mercy’ as her compatriot Mercy Cherono already won the title both in 2008 and 2010.

The large pack of 19 women was led in the early stages by the Kenyan pair of Chebwogen and Brillian Jepkorir Kipkoech at a moderate pace.

Before the first kilometre it was the fastest woman in the field this season Japan’s Myuki Uehara who ruled the race with Ukraine’s Maria Khodakivska closest to her.

The 1000m point was reached in a slow 3:07.90 as the Japanese runner didn’t inject a brisker rhythm.

Further laps in the 1:15 territory led the group to a 6:16.15 split for the second kilometre; by then the reigning European Junior XC champion Gorecka was in charge of the pace and forced the rest of the line-up to follow her in straight line.

The Briton’s relentless rhythm soon paid off and only the two Kenyans and the Ethiopian pair of Gebrekidan and Haftamnesh Tesfay remained in hot pursuit.

There were no major changes over the penultimate lap and the quintet hit the bell in 8:03.50 with Gorecka still leading.

The decisive movement was made by the shortest of the Kenyans Chebwogen, who overtook the Briton some 240m left. However, Gorecka tried to recover the lead on the bend and the two athletes ran virtually even for some metres.

Entering the home straight Chebwogen easily got rid of Gorecka to romp home unopposed in a PB of 9:08.88 while the Briton was caught barely 20m to the line by Gebrekidan, both also setting respective career bests of 9:09.27 and 9:09.43.

Actually no less than 12 athletes managed PBs including the fourth Tesfay (9:10:02) and the fifth Kipkoech, timed at 9:14.32.

The frantic closing 200m only took Chebwogen 30.85. At only 16 years of age, the Kenyan became the youngest of the three medallists while Gorecka landed the first British medal at the event since 1986.

Philemon Cheboi and Geoffrey Kirui added to the country’s medal tally by winning silver and bronze in the men 10000m when they trailed Ethiopian winner, Yigrem Demelash across the line.

Demelash brought the Kenyan dominance at the event to a halt today to grab the gold medal in style in a career best of 28:16.07.

Kirui and Cheboi had been hotly tipped as the main favourites but Demelash proved to be a master tactician and his arch-rivals had to settle for the minor places on the podium on this occasion.

The race opened quite conservatively as the lonesome early leader China’s Binlu Wang went through the opening 1000m in 2:55.54 and a full 10-second margin over the rest of the 34 competitors.

The Kenyan pair injected a lethal pace some 1500m into the race and only the Ethiopian duo and Uganda’s Moses Martin Kurong were able to live with their pace.

Kirui, who holds an impressive 26:55.73 to rank second on the all-time Junior lists, opened full gas after the second kilometre and an impressive 8:15 split for the following three kilometres led him lonesome at the front. Even before the halfway, Kirui began to lap the slowest contenders.

The 5000m was reached in 14:14 with Kirui still leading but shortly after the sixth kilometre the Kenyan began to falter a bit to be caught by Cheboi and Demelash.

It was Cheboi who took charge of the race then with respective splits of 2:48 for the seventh and eighth km; surprisingly, that kind of pace proved to be enough to leave Kirui behind while Demelash stayed comfortably at Cheboi’s shoulder.

The decisive moment came some three laps home when Cheboi was unable to maintain his own pace and was effortlessly passed by Demelash, who covered the penultimate 1000m section in 2:51.41.

There were no remarkable changes in the closing laps with Demelash ruling at the bell some 40m ahead of Cheboi, himself another 30m clear of Kirui.

In addition to Demelash PB of 28:16.07 Cheboi also produced a career best of 28:23.98 in second for Kirui’s 28:30.47 in third.

Demelash, who lapped every athlete from sixth onwards, is not entered in the 5000m event despite holding an impressive and recent PB of 13:03.30.

“I am feeling good but I could not get the gold medal. This country is so beautiful and weather is so beautiful. I am thankful to everyone for their pleasure,” Kirui said after the race.

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