BERLIN: August 15 – Her face said it all.
Beaming smile, eyes wide in a mixture of shock, elation and sheer ecstasy, Linet Masai could not quite believe what had just happened on the track minutes earlier at the Olympiastadion in Berlin as she entered the mixed zone.
She was trying to come to terms with becoming only the second Kenyan woman to win the World 10,000 metres gold medal on the opening day of the 12th World Athletics Championships thereby breaking a 12 year old jinx.
“I can’t believe it. I thought I was going to win silver or bronze but fortunately I managed to win and it’s a great day for me. I am so grateful and happy that I am the winner of today. It means so much to me,” said a jubilant Masai.
As the leading batch of five athletes approached the final bend of the final lap, Ethiopian duo of Meseret Defar and Meselech Melkamu seemed to pull away from Masai who had done most of the hard work in the previous five laps.
It was over or so the majority of the fans inside this iconic stadium thought, but not the 19 year old.
Reaching deep into her reserves and stretching every sinew in her lithe body, Masai suddenly found extra strength; her long legs eating up the gap infront her as she sped past the transfixed Ethiopian duo to clinch gold in 30:51.24. Melkamu clinched silver in 30:51.34 with Ayalew in third 30:51.95.
“At the end I felt I was so strong and didn’t give up because winning is for everybody. I saw they were slowing down and since I had power I decided to push a bit harder and by the grace of God I have the gold,” she offered.
By winning, Masai becomes only the second Kenyan woman to with the crown after Sally Barsosio won it back in 1997 when Masai was just eight years old.
History has away of repeating itself.
Fourteen years ago, Delartu Tulu was missing as Barsosio produced a stunning display to win in Athens.
In Berlin, the double World and Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba was missing due to injury.
Not that Masai would let anything take the shine off her momentous win.
“Defar was there and she is one of the best athletes in the world so there was really no difference. The two of them are talented athletes and very tough to beat. And after all I have beaten Dibaba in New York this year,” she observed
The race had started in a slow pace with the Ethiopians and Kenyans choosing to sit back as the rest of the girls took charge.
Masai made a decisive move with eight laps to go putting the hammer down with four fats laps that broke off the pack with only Grace Momanyi, Melkamu, Defar and Wude Ayalew keeping up.
“The plan was push hard and kill the other people’s kick so that we are at the same level in the final lap,” revealed Masai.
Momanyi took over with four laps to go keeping up the pace as they sought to take the sting out of the Ethiopians’ finishing kick.
Defar and Melkamu moved ominously infront at the bell but Masai matched them stride for stride until the 150 metre mark when the duo pulled away but Masai would have the final say.
A distraught Defar could not explain what happened in those final crucial metres, “I am sad about today’s race. It was very good but in the end, my body just stopped. I could not move and am very sad because this was just like in Beijing.”
Saturday was however all about Masai and having done her part, she now turns into a fan with her elder brother Moses Masai set to run in the 10,000 metres final on Monday, “Maybe he will win. In Olympics I was fourth, he was fourth. It would be a great thing if we were both winners in the same championships.”