Athletics Athletics

Tirop’s golden touch lifts Kenya


GUIYANG, March 28- Agnes Jebet Tirop salvaged the reputation and pride of her nation when she destroyed the field in a commanding front running performance to ascend to the senior women 8km title in style at the IAAF Guiyang World Cross in China on a chilly Saturday morning.

Tirop, who watched from the sidelines as the archenemy, Ethiopia celebrated both women and junior titles took it upon herself to sustained Kenya’s celebrated distance running tradition when she stopped the clock in 26:01 for glory.

With her teammates and Team Kenya contingent licking their wounds at the Qingzhen Training base after losing the first two individual gold medals to Ethiopian pair, Yasin Haji and Letsenbet Dida, Tirop heeded the call to be her nation’s heroin in emphatic fashion.

“It was good out there, first I want to thank God because I was not expecting to win gold and I prayed to Him for strength.

“I saw the Ethiopians behind and I decided to push the pace so that they can catch up with me at the front. I never wanted to go past me and run from the front. After watching the junior races, I was not scared because I knew God was with me.

“When I saw the Ethiopians take them, I told my God, if you have planned for us to win, so be it. I’m so happy, I put God first and asked him to lead me,” Tirop who was making her senior debut at the World Cross having won silver in Poland two years ago said, scarcely believing what she had just achieved.

Ethiopian pair, Senbere Tefari (26:06) and Netsanet Gudeta (26:11) followed the African junior cross champion home for silver and bronze with Alemite Heroye (26:14) fourth on another good outing for their nation as outgoing World Cross champion; Emily Chebet (26:18) came home sixth behind compatriot, Stacy Ndiwa (26:16).

– Front running-

AGNES TIROPTirop, a close friend of two-time World Junior champion, Faith Chepng’etich, absent here due to injury carried the promise she made at the team’s camp in Kigari, Embu to carry her mantle.

Employing the same front running technique she used to good effect to finish behind Chepng’etich at the Kenya Trials in Nairobi on February 18, the new World Cross senior women champion, remarkably still only 19, had save for the opening two kilometres, had an obstructed view to the finish.

At half way, she crossed through ahead of the pack that had Gudeta, Heroye, Irene Cheptai (26:26/seventh), Teferi, Ndiwa, Oljira and the two-time champion Chebet in her slipstream in that order.

Tirop led Teferi, Gudeta and Muge at the bell before the front pair surged ahead of the chasing duo at the last kilometre.

With 600m to go, the teenager uncorked the decisive turn of pace to drop Teferi and spark almost manic celebrations among the Kenyan contingent here as the elusive gold was finally home.

-Mutwiri Mutuota is reporting from Guiyang, China