PUNTA UMBRIA, Spain, March 20- The man who arrived late for the show will leave Spain the on top of the planet after a dominating gun to tape performance elevated Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor to the hallowed status of World Cross junior men 8km champion.
Minutes after compatriot Faith Chepng’etich bagged her nation the junior 6km gold, Kipsang tore through the relatively flat grass course in Punta Umbria with such vemon that victory was never in doubt which was finally sealed in 22:21.
Only Uganda’s Thomas Ayeko, whose return of 22:27 for silver was in itself a huge honour for his country, kept close to the marauding winner who was representing his country for the first time.
“I’m so happy especially after all the difficulty I encountered when coming here. However, I knew my shape was excellent, even at the warm-up, I felt my body was light. When we started, my plan was simple, to keep going until the end, I knew I would win this,” the delighted Kipsang told a horde of reporters moments after succeeding Caleb Mwangangi as the junior 8km World Cross titleholder.
The freshly minted World Cross champion was turned away from Team Kenya’s intial flight to Punta Umbria on Wednesday night after entries on his visa had problems and had to fly out a day later, arriving in Punta Umbria on Friday night.
“That did not worry me since I knew in training I was in great shape. It was a long journey and we delayed a lot in Amsterdam but apart from the challenge I was given by the Ugandan, the race was good.”
From the start, Kipsang took off like an inflatable plastic toy plane let loose in high winds, charging through the opening kilometre in less than three minutes and closing the first lap in 5:22. Ethiopia’s Bonsa Dida, Goitom Kifle and Fikadu Haftu as well as Ugandan Jacob Araptany trailed him as they completed 2km.
Pre-race favourite and world junior indoor record holder, Isaiah Kiplangat, who won the Kenyan trials at a canter was struggling at this stage, crossing the 2km in ninth place. At 4km, Ayeko (11:04) joined the lead pack as Kipsang brought the runners through in 11:03 with Dida and Haftu in second and third.
The front order changed to Kipsang (16:48), Dida (16:48) and Ayeko (16:49) at the bell as Patrick Mutunga powered up the field to enter the medal contention in fourth as Kiplagat showed signs of challenging for honours a place behind.
With 600m to go, Kipsang deployed a devastating breakaway to romp home unchallenged and hand his country her second title in style. Teammate Mutunga pounced on the tiring Dida to snatch bronze in 22:32 on his World Cross debut as James Gitahi (22:43/sixth) and Kiplagat who took seventh in 23:10 breast the tape to retain Kenya’s overall team title.
“I look forward to challenging for a place in the World Championships. I’m confident I can do it,” Kipsang, who intially wanted to run in the senior race stated. It was Kenya’s 13th successive team title in this race, a record.