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Inspired Ndiku strikes gold for Kenya

NDIKU-GOLDSOPOT, Poland, March 9 – Three years after winning the World junior title, Caleb Mwangangi Ndiku scaled the heights in the most sensational fashion when he won the men 3000m while defending champion, Hellen Obiri, took silver in the corresponding women’s race as the World Indoor Championships closed in Sopot on Sunday.

The pair gave their country the only medals at the three-day event to place Kenya seventh in the final standings with Ethiopia, who won two golds topping the African charts.

Ndiku, who qualified for the medal race the winner of his heat, closed in for glory in 7:54.94 after edging a tactical dash for the line in the final lap as Kenyan born American veteran, Bernard Lagat continued to defy age (39) to settle for the second medal in 7:55.22.

A fourth gold medal in the event would have put Lagat one victory ahead of Ethiopian great Haile Gebrselassie in the all-time annals of the World Indoor Championships.

But the 39-year-old Lagat, who claimed the first of his three world indoor titles in 2004 when he raced for his native Kenya, had not counted on the fast last-lap pace of the towering 21-year-old Ndiku.

“I am very happy. I would like to thank God for the power he gave me. This medal is a good thing for me because since three years ago, since my medal at the World Juniors, I did not get a medal.

“I knew that Lagat and Gebremesekel were good, but I also knew that I was fast in the last lap so I had to wait and see, I did not waste my energy. In the future, I do not know which event I will do – 1500m or 3000m – I have to see with my coach,” the ecstatic Ndiku, who bagged the world junior 1500m outdoor title in Bydgoszcz, Poland in 2010 said after mowing the strong field for more Polish delight.

The veteran was full of praise for the youngster who upstaged him, conceding the winner was the better athlete on the day.

“The Kenyan guy Ndiku was running a very wise and smart race. I am happy with my performance and my fifth appearance at the Campionships. The next motivation for me will be the Continental Cup in September and I am also curious how fast I can run outdoors competing at 3 and 5K.The race was tactical, as I expected for the final, going fast – slow – fast – slow,” Lagat, known in athletics circles as ‘daddy’ said.

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“But my experience helped me to keep with the rest and the medal is a great result for me. I’m happy with my performance in my fifth appearance at the championships. I can tell you I gave 110 percent today and all these guys were running so well,” the silver medallist added.

Briton Andrew Vernon took up the early running in the longest race of the world indoors, comprising 15 laps of the blue 200-metre track at Sopot’s Ergo Arena. Ethiopian Hagos Gebrhiwet, the world 5000m silver medallist and the fastest man in the discipline this season, soon took over with silver medallist from Istanbul two years ago, Augustine Kiprono Choge on his shoulder.

Choge upped the pace, taking the Ethiopian and New Zealander Zane Robertson with him, Lagat and Ndiku happy to sit in the middle of the chasing pack. At the halfway stage, Gebrhiwet again speeded up, stringing the pack out, Ndiku also moving through the field to push the pace.

With two laps left, Ndiku put in another spurt and Lagat came wide past the two Ethiopians. At the bell, Ndiku still held the lead, anticipating Lagat’s trademark kick.

The American pushed, but it was obvious he did not have enough in his legs to make it past the towering Kenyan as Ethiopian, Dejen Gebremeskel, trailed the pair for bronze in 7:55.39.

Lagat’s teammate Galen Rupp, the training partner of absent Briton Mo Farah, finished in fourth ahead of Gebrhiwet as Choge disappointment ended in a 9th finish in 7:57.46.

Genzebe ends Obiri’s reign

In the women’s final, world record holder, Genzebe Diababa of Ethiopia fulfilled her favourite role to perfection, clinching her second World Indoor title in 8:55.04 as outgoing champion, Obiri, hang on her coattails for the silver lining in 8:57.72.

Bahrain’s Maryman Yusuf Jamal (8:59.16) came in for bronze ahead of Kenya’s Irene Jelagat (9:02.67) who placed just outside the podium.

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“I am so happy. I came to defend my indoor title, but the competition was tough as Dibaba is the world record holder. I stayed behind her to push me.

“I have something to bring back home so I am thankful for that. I am going to rest for a few weeks and prepare for the Commonwealth Games in the 1500m,” the silver medallist graciously accepted the might of the youngest of the Dibaba sister’s dynasty who has broken three world records this winter, was a barrier too far for her.

“I moved up with about eight laps to go, but I couldn’t shake them off, so I had to increase the pace with 800 to go. That was what we had discussed before the race with my coach.

“This year, I’ve added 3000m World Championships gold to three world records, and it’s been a great year for me. My sister Tirunesh also wanted me to focus on the gold, and not the time. I know they will be very happy. I have done what they hoped and expected,” the gold winner added.

Ethiopian Mohammed Aman defended his 800m title in 1min 46.40sec for gold, with Polish duo Adam Kszczot (1:46.76) and Marcin Lewandowski (1:47.09) taking silver and bronze.

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