BIRMINGHAM, United kingdom, Mar 4- Bethwell Birgen won Kenya’s only medal at the 2018 IAAF World Indoor Championship in Birmingham, claiming bronze in the 3,000m race on the final day of the Championship where Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha defended his title.
Birgen managed to break up a potential Ethiopian medal sweep, clocking an impressive 8:15.70 and improving on his eighth place in the 2014 event.
He kept a low profile throughout the race but appeared when it mattered most to take his first major championship medal. Compatriot Davis Kiplangat finished seventh out of the 12 athletes who started the final after clocking 8:18.03.
Kenya’s final medal hope rested in youngster Vincent Kibet in the 1500m race, but he failed to perform after finishing last clocking 4:02.32 in a race won by Ethiopia’s Samuel Tefera while Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski won silver.
In the 3,000m Hagos Gebrhiwet just missed out on a medal with a 8:15.76 clocking with the world 5000m silver medallist beating Spain’s European indoor 3000m champion Adel Mechaal (8:16.13) to the line in fifth.
Kejelcha successfully defended his title with a powerful display of front running over the final kilometre of a tactical final.
The 20-year-old IAAF World Indoor Tour winner took charge after 2000 metres, which was reached in a comfortable 5:51.71 following a pedestrian 3:08.24 opening kilometre.
Frustrated by the pace and with energy saved from the first 10 laps, Kejelcha unleashed a final kilometre of 2.22.70. Having covered the final lap in 26.82, Kejelcha refused to heed his prime position and crossed the line a clear winner in 8:14.41.
His winning time is the slowest in the 32-year history of the championships by more than 10 seconds, but that mattered little to the Ethiopian.
“I’m very happy to be the world indoor champion again,” said Kejelcha. “During the race, I saw everyone was very confident but I was the one controlling everybody. When I pushed, I went with my friends and I was able to show off my power. I’m very happy for my country and my people.
“This year, I have been second sometimes but my coach has been working with me to make my race seamless. Before, I had a problem with my speed in the last few laps and I couldn’t control the race, but I’ve been training a lot on that and now I’m very good with my kick at the end.
“Next year, I want to break the 5000m world record.”
His compatriot, 18-year-old Selemon Barega, managed to sneak the silver medal in the closing metres, clocking 8:15.59 to Bethwell Birgen’s 8:15.70.
World U18 and U20 champion Barega captured his first senior international medal in the process, in a season in which he has registered a world-leading 7:36.64.
–Additional reports courtesy IAAF