NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 27 – Eliud Kipchoge, arguably the best marathoner ever, one most would refer to as the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) took the biggest share of Kenyan athletics shine in 2019 with his history making Ineos 1:59 challenge.
It was a successful year for Kenyan athletics, just like it has been over the years, though gremlins here and there, top of it all the massive ghost of doping always showed its head.
From the World Cross Country Championship to the Track Championship and Major Marathons, Capital Sports takes a look at how Kenya fared in the athletics world in 2019.
-Kipchoge ‘lands on the moon’
World Marathon record holder Kipchoge started his year by successfully defending his London marathon title, but his biggest achievement of the year and probably his entire career was what he described as ‘landing on the moon’.
Kipchoge became the first man to run a marathon under two hours when he clocked 1:59:40 in the Ineos 1:59 challenge on the streets of Vienna, Austria in October, in what was his second attempt at the feat.
Though it was not recorded as an official record, the Olympic champion went into the history books and inspired a whole generation with the interwebs trending with his name for two days.
Celebrities, sportsmen and women and even former US president Barrack Obama were in awe, congratulating him for his feat.
His prowess in road running saw him clinch the World Athletics Male Athlete of The Year for a second year running.
–Obiri shines on track and mud
The 30-year old won on two different surfaces to make a successful year.
On her World Cross Country Championship debut, Hellen Obiri added a piece of medal that had lacked in her collection, clinching the senior women’s title in Aarhus, Denmark in March.
She clocked 36.14 to clinch the 10km title, just two seconds ahead of Ethiopian Dera Dida to start off her year on a positive note.
Going into the track championship in Doha in September, Obiri didn’t have the start she desired. She finished outside the medal brackets in the 10,000m, a race won by Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan and in her own words, Obiri wanted to go back home after that race.
She was dejected after being beaten, but after encouragement from her husband, manager and fans, she decided to stick in Doha and go for the 5,000m race.
She took all her anger there and it was a success as she clinched the title, leading a Kenyan 1-2 with Margaret Chelimo finishing second.
–Timothy Cheruiyot finally comes of age
After years of playing second fiddle to training partner Elijah Manangoi, Timothy Cheruiyot made maximum advantage of the latter’s injury prone season to finally clinch a major title.
Cheruiyot had come second to Manangoi at the 2017 World Championships and the 2018 Commonwealth Games, but he made amends clinching the world title finally in Doha with Manangoi missing with injury.
It was a perfect ending to the season for Cheruiyot who had ruled the 1500m season in the Diamond League, winning the Diamond Trophy that came with a Sh5mn purse attached to it.
–Conseslus keeps Kenya’s steeple joy
A half fit Conseslus Kipruto ensured that Kenya’s dominance in the 3,000m steeplechase remained unchallenged as he put up a remarkable last dip finish to clinch the world title in Doha.
Kipruto had struggled with injury the entire season and had pulled out of three races prior to the World Championships, including the national trials in Nairobi.
But in one of the most memorable photo finishes, he dipped one microsecond ahead of Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma to retain his world title in a world leading time of 8:01.35.
–Brigid Kosgei’s world record run
Brigid Kosgei, 25, put her name in the history books when she broke Paul Radcliffe’s 16-year women’s marathon world record, clinching the Chicago Marathon title in 2:14:04, taking a minute and 21 seconds off the previous mark.
It was her second major marathon victory this year having also won in London.
-Kenyans rule World Marathon majors
Apart from Tokyo and Berlin, Kenyans were unstoppable in the World Marathon Majors. Ethiopians dominated in the season opening Tokyo Marathon, Birhanu Legese winning the men’s race while Ruti Aga won the women’s.
Bedan Karoki and Dickson Chumba finished second and third respectively while Florence Kiplagat was the best placed Kenyan in the women’s race finishing fourth.
Lawrence Cherono then started Kenya’s dominance with victory at the Boston Marathon with Worknesh Degefa winning the women’s race as the experienced Edna Kiplagat finished second.
Kipchoge and Brigid then kept the pedal moving in London. In the women’s race, Kenya scooped four places in the top five with Vivian Cheruiyot finishing second, Gladys Cherono fourth and Mary Keitany fifth.
In Chicago, Cherono and Kosgei picked up their second major titles of the year before Geoffrey Kamworor and Joyciline Jepkosgei wound up the year with victories in New York.
Jepkopsgei, a half marathon specialist and record holder made her debut in the full marathon and made it a memorable one with victory.
–Doping taints Kenya’s image once again
Even as Athletics Kenya and the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) continue in their strides to reduce doping cases in the country, the ugly head still showed up with several high-profile cases reported.
Multiple Olympic and World 15000m champion Asbel Kiprop was slapped with a four-year ban at the beginning of the year for use of EPO, though he continues to profess innocence.
Rio 2016 marathon champion Jemimah Sumgong was the next high profile name to be slapped with a ban, over the same use of EPO while Lucy Kabuu was banned for two years for use of Morphine.
Former world half marathon record holder Abraham Kiptum was also slapped with a four-year ban over inconsistencies found in his Athlete Biological Passport (ABP, same case that befell Cyrus Rutto.
The most shocking was when 18-year old Angela Munguti was handed a four-year ban for use of performance enhancing drugs during last year’s youth Olympics in Argentina.