DAEGU, South Korea, September 1- “I’m the happiest man that is why I had to dance my best. My friend Usian Bolt remember was not in the finals and he would have danced well if he won and today I had to do for Usain Bolt and me.”
Only Ezekiel Kemboi, the talented showman, could ever dream of such a priceless quote moments after becoming the first Kenyan to successfully defend his title when he won the men’s steeplechase title, the fourth gold medal for his nation at the 13th Worlds in 8:14.85 on Thursday.
Apart from employing such a devastating shift in pace 300m from the finish that took him well past a deep field, Kemboi’s killer burst afforded himself enough time to salute the crowd 50m to the finish before he broke into such an entertaining jig that brought the crowd at the Daegu Sports Stadium to its feet after crossing to the line.
And if Kalenjin artiste, Philip Yegon’s popular hit, Emily Chepchumba, becomes a sensation in the internet (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Zl5A07MOSQ and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ed-zcQOZlVI&feature=related), then he will be have Kemboi to thank since that is the song he hummed and danced to during his eye-catching and exhilarating post-race celebration.
With a catchy fresh haircut to boot, Kemboi, who delivered a performance worthy of two gold medals on and off the track explained his eye catching cut and its significance.
“Always when I shave my hair, it’s going to be war that is why I had to shave it today to say I was prepared for the race. I had to prepare for the last 200m to sprint that is why I celebrated in the last 50m since I knew no one would catch me.”
At the Berlin finals two years ago, Kemboi spotted a haircut that displayed the Nike swoosh as he powered to the 8:00.14 championship record but this time, it was more of a box cut and although he did not better his effort time-wise, his perfectly executed burst before the last water jump was enough to scorch the competition.
Olympics champion and teammate, Brimin Kipruto, who came to the race with the second fastest all time of 7:53.64 that is a hundredth of a second off the world record and the favourite was so stunned by Kemboi’s tactic that he almost lost silver to Frenchman Mekhissi Bennabad as Kenya celebrated the 1-2.
“It was a tough race today as I came to defend my title. I have competed in ten finals and won gold or silver, never won bronze and to maintain that, you need discipline and planning for races and training and today (referring to his sudden killer sprint), I used Plan Z. I want to run for the next ten years so that I become a super human being, the first person to run for over 20 years!”
The ecstatic Kemboi, who engaged in a colourful lap of honour that was well received by the crowd as he tossed his running jersey to the cheering supporters, outlined what his celebrations would be.
“I’m not thinking of the Olympics now, I want to go home, have a holiday and celebrate with them in an indoor celebration. I dedicate the gold to my family, my coach and all Kenyans.”
Once again, he hinted at a shift to marathon running saying, “I want to do something different. Maybe after the London Olympics, I will see.”
His victory extended his mandate at the helm of the men 3000m for a further two years as his bulging honours list expanded to include and Olympic title (2004), two Worlds (2009 and 2011), three silver medals at the same event (2003, 2005 and 2007), a Commonwealth title (2006) as well as medals at Africa Championships and All Africa Games.
With the final curve and water jump approaching, Kemboi was running alongside his technically faster teammate but in a flash, he was gone, his devastating turn of speed finishing him off. “I will now focus on defending my Olympics title next year. I was keen on finishing on the podium and I achieved that,” Kipruto, who turned back to see the fast finishing Mekhissi just behind him before he kicked to silver in 8:16.05 said.
“I was not expecting him (Mekhissi) to come so quickly but when he caught up, I had to defend the silver. I cannot say anything about Kemboi other that I’m happy for him.”
“Losing to Kenyans? No, I do not feel bad about it since they are the ones who inspired me to run steeplechase and I congratulate Kemboi, he is the best we have at the moment and I will work hard to catch up next time,” Olympics silver winner Bennabad, who was thrilled with his bronze (8:16.09) stated.
Commonwealth and Africa titleholder, Richard Mateelong, who finished seventh (8:19.31) and is the team captain for Kenya also extended his big up to the winner who maintained the nation’s sterling record at the men water and barriers race by bagging the ninth medal at the Worlds.
“That was good from Kemboi, he is in very good form but most of all, I’m happy the gold has come back home although I’m disappointed by my performance but I will train hard for next year’s Olympics.”
Debutant Abraham Chirchir (8:33.56) who returned 14th said the searing heat and lack of experience cost him a good performance.
– Mutwiri Mutuota is reporting for Capital Sport from Daegu, South Korea.