What you need to know:
- Former world 10,000m champion and two-time Boston Marathon winner Moses Tanui also paid tribute to Korir.
- “That was a great race! Korir is intelligent and knows how to execute the game plan very well in the 800m,” Tanui, who is recovering from hip surgery, said from Eldoret.
Perfect timing! World 800 metres record holder David Rudisha returned my call Wednesday night just as I was helping Emmanuel Korir through the media mixed zone at the Tokyo National Stadium.
I told “King David’ that I was with the man of the moment, and handed the phone over to Korir.
“Well done! You had done it,” I could hear Rudisha scream through speaker phone to an equally excited Korir.
“Thank you,” Korir, draped in the Kenyan flag, responded.
“I knew you could do it! Now you will feel the pressure,” Rudisha, winner of the last two Olympic 800m titles, told his successor.
Olympic legend and National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) President Paul Tergat was also at the mixed zone, along with secretary general Francis Mutuku, to congratulate Korir while the victory was still red hot.
“You have done us proud!,” Tergat said as he hugged the new champion.
Sports Principal Secretary Joe Okudo called in from Nairobi to thank Korir for retaining the 800m gold medal for Kenya.
“On behalf of the Cabinet Secretary, Honourable Amina Mohamed, and the Ministry, and indeed the country as a whole, we say thanks a million for the superb performance. We are proud of you,” Okudo said.
The victory will be a fitting reward for CS Amina who is in mourning following the death of her husband last week.
Korir, 26, said he had to work extremely hard for the gold.
"The race definitely wasn't easy, I had to work extremely hard. Nobody knew what would happen and that we would have to go out there and run so hard."
He added that the victory was the best moment of his career.
"This means a lot to me. I am so happy because I have been training more than twice a day for this moment and it is very special to me. Today is my day, and I made it not only to the finals but the top of the podium. This is the best day for me in track and field.
"Winning a gold medal is nothing easy. There was some pressure because I know that many Kenyans back home wanted us to win and we have won the event a lot."
He dedicated the medal to his father and support team: "This is for everyone who is close to me but especially my father. He was the one who always supported me from the time I was a child, and this is a really tough event.
“He was always there for me, and I feel like this is for him because of the all the sacrifices he made so that I could be here."
Former world 10,000m champion and two-time Boston Marathon winner Moses Tanui also paid tribute to Korir.
“That was a great race! Korir is intelligent and knows how to execute the game plan very well in the 800m,” Tanui, who is recovering from hip surgery, said from Eldoret.
“Congratulations Emmanuel Korir for winning Kenya’s first gold medal,” Athletics Kenya said through executive officer Susan Kamau.
“Ferguson Rotich, we have witnessed you fight to clinch silver. We also celebrate Hyvin Kiyeng for bronze in the 3,000m steeplechase,” Kamau added.
Speaking to Nation Sport on Tuesday, Rudisha had predicted that Kenya would win two medals in the 800m race.
“Don’t underestimate anybody because the race is going to be tough and very close, but these guys (Rotich and Korir) are good and I’m sure we have two medals…” he said.
“The medals are within reach, but let them know which medals they want in that final, and how they are going to run.
“Let them also not forget that the 800m at the last three Olympics has been won by Kenyans – Wilfred Bungei in 2008, Rudisha in 2012 and Rudisha in 2016.
“Let them know ni mbio ya nyumbani (it is our race), and they must bring it (gold medal) back home.”
The medal ceremony for the 800m will be held today from 10.30am local time (4.30am Kenyan time).
On Kenya’s programme on Thursday are the semi-finals of the men’s 1,500m where the country is represented by world champion Timothy Cheruiyot and Charles Simotwo.