OREGON, March 20 – Kenya had a poor outing at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland, USA where the country finished to a disappointing 25th position with only two bronze medals.
Augustine Choge, the 2012 World Indoor silver medallist bagged bronze in the men’s 3000m on the final day that also saw world junior champion Margaret Wambui give Kenya the last medal after coming home third in the women’s 800m in 2:00. 44.
Ethiopian Yomif Kajelcha beat the deep field in the men’s 3000m to claim gold in 7:57.21 with Commonwealth champion Caleb Mwangangi Ndiku settling for fifth.
Yomif seems to have an affinity with Oregon after the 18-year-old won the world junior 5000m title in 2004, having clinched gold last year over the same distance at the famed IAAF Diamond League meeting.
After the field had been towed through the first kilometre by Canada’s Mohammed Ahmed and then Kenya’s Isiah Koech in a gentle 2:52.18, the pace gradually increased.
Koech lead through to 1600m before his compatriot and defending champion Ndiku briefly showed at the front. With just over five laps to go, Djibouti’s Youssouf Hiss Bachir then took his turn directing procedings, hitting the 2000m checkpoint in 5:43.33.
Bachir and Ndiku continued to control the pace at the front for the next two laps although, behind them, Choge was steadily moving through the field in anticipation of striking for home over the last two laps.
However, Kejelcha beat him to the punch and took first place with 400 metres to go.
As the runners went through their gears, the leading five of Kejelcha, Choge, Morocco’s Abdalaati Iguider, Ndiku, and USA’s Ryan Hill started to separate themselves from the rest of the field and passed the bell in the order.
Kejecha hugged the curb and wisely refused to give way or allow any gap on the inside while in full flight over the final lap.
As the teenage Ethiopian came off the last bend with 50 metres to go he was attacked by Choge and Hill, the latter having to come the long way around.
However, Kejelcha has a ferocious turn of speed in the final stages of races and managed to repel their challenges, crossing the line in 7:57.21, with Hill coming through to take the silver in 7:57.39; just edging out Choge, who was 0.04 further back.
Kejelcha’s winning time may have been the second slowest in championship history but the last kilometre took just 2:22.88.
– Wambui bronze-
In the Women’s 800m, Wambui was battled for bronze after losing to Burundi and hosts USA to finish in the podium.
Burundi had waited 23 years for a world indoor medal and now – like waiting for a bus – two have shown up in quick succession.
One day after Antoine Gakeme took silver in the men’s 800m, compatriot Francine Niyonsaba went one better in the women’s event by winning gold in a world-leading national indoor record of 2:00.01.
USA’s Ajee Wilson, the world leader going into the race, dashed to the front in the first 100m and the pace then steadied as the field settled behind her, covering the first lap in 29.23.
Kenya’s Wambui then moved into the lead on the backstretch of the second lap, but her lead was short lived. By the end of that lap, having covered 400m in 1:00.56, Niyonsaba took up the running at the front.
With 1:29.78 on the clock as the bell sounded for the final lap, Niyonsaba had built up a lead of about two or three metres as she began to kick. Wilson had Wambui in her sights and gradually began to close on her.
Niyonsaba, though, was out in front as she approached the finish, crossing the line in 2:00.01. Wilson passed Wambui in the closing stages to take silver in 2:00.27 while Wambui held on for a PB of 2:00.44 in third.
Wilson’s teammate Laura Roesler looked to be in contention at the start of the final lap but was unable to catch the leading trio and finished fourth in 2:00.80.
-Additional material from IAAF-