Kenya wins two more gold medals as Kipruto sets new Olympics record

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Faith Chepng'etich Kipyegon who won a gold medal in the women's 1,500m final. (PHOTO: COURTESY)

Kenya struck Olympics gold to top the athletics medal table at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Yesterday, 22-year-old Faith Chepng’etich Kipyegon set the medal-winning mission in motion when she dramatically upstaged Ethiopia’s world 1,500m record holder Genzebe Dibaba.

Then two-time world 3,000m steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto added to the day’s gold medal account as he upset two-time Olympics champion Ezekiel Kemboi at the Olympic Stadium.

Kemboi’s defeat marked a turning point as he handed over the reins to Kipruto, who lost to him twice – at the World Championships in Moscow (2013) and in Beijing in 2015.

Huge gap

Kipruto, who comes from Kipchunu village in Nandi County, won Kenya’s fourth gold medal in Rio – coming after Jemimah Sumgong (marathon), David Rudisha (800m) and Chepng’etich (1,500m).

He opened a huge gap on the homestretch between him, Kemboi and American Evan Jager, who settled for silver.

Kipruto also set a new Olympics record of 8:03.28 under Rio’s hot weather conditions that stood at 31 degrees.

Jager made good his threat to spoil a Kenyan podium sweep, having made several attempts. He dashed the national dream as he beat Kemboi in the last barrier to earn the US a silver medal.

Kemboi, fondly known as ‘Baba Yao’ in athletics circles, emerged from the tunnel in his comical haircut as speculations circulated about his quest for victory – something he has exhibited in major championships.

But that did not happen as Kipruto shot to the front from the gun, controlling the high pace to win in a new Olympicsrecord. Jager made a time of 8:04.28, Kemboi 8:08.47 and Frenchman Mahiedine Mekhissi 8:11.52.

“I am happy to be an Olympics champion. To beat Kemboi at the Olympics is not easy. I have tried it twice before but it has always been difficult. I am happy that I managed to beat him today,” Kipruto said.

Kemboi, who has actively competed in major championships since 2003, announced his retirement.

Meanwhile, the traditional Kenya versus Ethiopia track rivalry played up in the run-up to the 1,500m final at the Olympic Stadium yesterday morning. But Chepng’etich shrugged off a fierce challenge from Dibaba, the world 1,500m champion.

Chepng’etich, who made her maiden global outing at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Lille, France, in 2011, was elated after her victory and even lay on the track to come to terms with the reality that she was indeed the Olympics champion.

First medal

Her rivals had to wait for her to pick herself off the track and Dibaba was among the first of her rivals to hug and congratulate her.

“Mimi sikuwa naamini nita win lakini nimeshukuru Mungu sana kuweza ku-win hapa Rio. Ni medal yangu ya kwanza Olympics na ninashukuru Mungu sana. (I did not believe that I couldwin but I thank God that I won here in Rio. It is my first Olympics medal and once again I thank God),” an elated Cheng’etich said and jokingly told Kenyan journalists in the mixed zone that she was tired of speaking English.

“I knew Genzebe would start hitting the front in the last 800m and I knew that she would be fast, but I had prepared well and knew that I would leave Brazil with a medal,” she said.

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