MARRAKESH, Morocco, September 13- Kenyan stars; world women 800m champion, Eunice Sum and Isiah Koech, struck gold for Africa as the IAAF Continental Championships got underway in Marrakech, Morroco Saturday.
Sum, who added the Commonwealth, African and a second IAAF Diamond League titles to her honours list this season, signed off her roaring campaign by uncorking a finishing sprint that powered her clear of her challengers to end victorious in 1:58.21.
She was the only competitor to break the 2:00 barrier as American Ajee Simpson, who handed her a first defeat over 800m this season at the Monaco Diamond League meeting led the challengers home in 2:00.07 for the Americas as European titleholder, Belarusian Marina Arzamasova closed the podium in 2:00.31.
Earlier in the men 5000m final, Commonwealth and African silver medallist Koech, still only 20, added his name to an illustrious list of 5000m champions at the IAAF World and Continental Cup, none more so than Morocco’s own hero Said Aouita, who won this event at the World Cup in 1989.
Aouita held off two Europeans to win 25 years ago, but tonight Koech was faced with a dogged New Zealander as Zane Robertson chased him home to add a Continental Cup silver to the Commonwealth Games bronze he won behind Koech in Glasgow earlier this summer.
Koech’s fellow African Nguse Amlosom, from Eritrea, was third leaving the field’s fastest man, Bahrain’s Albert Rop representing Asia-Pacific, fourth.
It came down to a last lap sprint between these four, but in the end it was a consummate victory for Koech, a former world youth champion, who controlled most of the race before out-kicking Robertson to win in 13:26.86 to finally catch the bouquet after being led to the altar at Glasgow Commonwealth and Morocco African Championships by compatriot Caleb Mwangangi.
Koech led six of the eight starters through 1000m in 2:44.70 and then 2000m in 5:34.60 before Rop took on the front-running duties as they hit 3000m in 8:17.32, with France’s Bouabdellah Tahri and Robertson.
The Kenyan moved to the lead again with three laps to go, as Turkey’s Ali Kaya began to struggle at the back of the pack.
Robertson made his move 800 metres out, dragging the two Africans and Rop away from the two Europeans.
Koech struck as they heard the bell, but Robertson hung on gamely down the back straight, keeping the gap to five metres.
The Kenyan kicked again 200 metres out, and this time it was decisive.
Robertson split the Africans to take seven valuable points for his side in 13:29.27 as Amlosom was rewarded for his persistence with a personal best of 13:31.31.
The third Kenyan on parade on Day 1 of the battle of continents, Janet Kisa, came fourth in the women’s 3000m final in 9:01.72 but Africa, who stamped her supremacy in distance events, still took the glory as Ethiopia’s World Indoor Champion, Genzebe Dibaba, beat the field to gold in 8:57.53.
Europe ended the programme in the lead with 173.5 points ahead of Africa who scored 146, two ahead of the Americas in third.
-Material from IAAF used for this report