Kenya pushes for gold in vain on final day

Team Kenya display their trophy duirng an awards ceremony for the marathon worl cup at the world athletics championships at the Olympic stadium in Berlin August 22, 2009. Kenya won the gold ahead of Ethopia who took silver and Japan who won bronze. REUTERS

What you need to know:

  • Kirwa bags 800m silver but no medals in women’s marathon and men’s 5,000m

Osaka 2007 remains Kenya’s most successful global track outing after the country’s athletes on Sunday failed to get the much sought after fifth gold medal as the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics drew to a close at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin.

On the final day of competition, South Africa completed a women’s and men’s double in the 800 metres after Mbualeni Mulaudzi clinched a gold, piping defending world champion, Kenya’s Alfred Kirwa Yego, at the final dip to clock one minute, 45.29.

Kenya’s tally of 11 medals was comprised of four gold, five silver and two bronze, just short of Osaka’s tally of 13 (5-3-5). They finished behind the USA and Jamaica on the log.

In 1991, Kenya won four gold, three silver and one bronze in Tokyo that will rank as the third best after Osaka and, now, Berlin.

On Sunday was an uneventful day for Kenyans who failed to get any medals in the women’s marathon earlier in the day and the men’s 5,000m final in which Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele completed a double after having won the 10,000m earlier in the week.

The women’s marathon medals went to China’s Xue Bai (gold in 2:25.15), Japan’s Yoshimi Ozaki (silver, 2:25.25) and Ethiopia’s Aselefech Mergia (bronze, 2:25.32).

The top Kenyan was Japan-based Julia Mumbi at 12th (2:28.59) while Irene Limika (2:31.29) was 21st, Risper Kimaiyo 37th (2:39.23) and Martha Komu 47th (2:42.12).

Final sprint

In Kenya’s final competition of these championships, Kirwa battled and had to go out to Lane Three in the final 100 metres to get room for his brilliant final sprint that just fell short of the gold, the winner in Osaka timed at 1:45.35.

Kenya’s former world junior and world youth silver medallist, Jackson Kivuva, the dark horse in the race, finished ninth after being spiked and losing a shoe in the tough battle.

Mulaudzi – gold medallist at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, silver medallist at the 2004 Olympic Games and bronze medal winner at the 2003 World Championships - ran like a man possessed, going to the front and running a gun-to-tape race, covering 200 metres in 25.02 seconds and coming to the bell at 53.44.

Former Kenyan Yusuf Saad Kamel (Gregory Konchellah) of Bahrain took the bronze in 1:45.35.

The script was very much like the women’s race where South Africa won the gold in the two-lap race. Again they defeated a title holder as 18-year-old Caster Semenya also blasted away to beat Kenya’s Janeth Jepkosgei, the winner in Osaka, to the gold.

Cruised to victory

Bekele made it two gold medals for himself and two for Ethiopia when he cruised to victory in the 5,000m in 13:17.09 with defending champion Bernard Lagat of the USA settling for silver in 13:17.33 and former Kenyan James Kwalia Chekurui of Qatar taking bronze in 13:17.78.

Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge was fifth and Vincent Chepkok ninth.

“It was a very hard race,” Bekele said. Everybody was very strong , but I’m happy I did well. I did better. I’m the first athlete from Ethiopia to win this race at the World Championship.”
“I thought I was going to have it, but Bekele was stronger,” Lagat said. “I gave everything I had. You will see me again for a long, long time.”

Kwalia, eighth at the Beijing Olympics, was overjoyed. “I’m happy that I managed to get that high on the finish list. I was waiting for the Qatar flag but nobody gave it to me. Nobody, perhaps expected me to get a medal!” he said.