Kenya’s squad to the inaugural World Athletics Road Running Championships in Riga, Latvia, produced brilliant show to top the medal standings yesterday.
The team gave Kenyans a precise Sunday gift as they won 12 medals –five gold, three silver and four bronze –ahead of Ethiopia seven medals (two gold, four silver and a bronze) and USA, who harvested two medals (one gold and one bronze).
Beatrice Chebet, the world 5000m bronze medallist, put Kenya’s medal chase in motion as she led 2017 world cross country bronze medallist Lilian Kasait Rengerul into 1-2 sweep in women’s 5km contest.
Peris Jepchirchir, the two-time world half marathon champion (Copenhagen in 2014 and Cardiff in 2016), joined the elite club of three-time world half marathon winners as she won the half marathon gold medal.
The other two are Kenyan-born Dutchwoman Lornah Kiplagat and former world marathon record holder Tegla Loroupe.
It was particularly a sweet victory for the 23-year-old Chebet who added a road running title to her world cross country crown she won in Bathurst, Australia, in February.
Chebet, who is a police officer, led a Kenyan top two in the women's 5km, clocking 14:35 for a time just six seconds off the women-only world record.
Lilian Kasait Rengeruk, the 2017 world cross country bronze medallist, finished four seconds behind her Kenyan teammate to secure the silver medal, holding off Ethiopia’s Ejgayehu Taye, the mixed race world record-holder, by one second – 14:39 to 14:40.
“I had to be confident,” said Chebet. “It was not easy, but the last time I ran the 5000m in Oregon (at the Wanda Diamond League Final, where she finished second), I saw I could deliver and today I delivered. It was just an amazing race, something amazing.”
Jepchirchir, the Olympic marathon champion, underlined her status as one of the all-time greats by claiming a third world half marathon title. The 30-year-old took gold in 1:07:25.
She was followed by Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi, fourth in 500m at the Budapest worlds, in 1:07:26 with Catherine Reline Amanang’ole completing a 1-2-3 for Kenya in 1:07:34.
“I wanted to win three times and make history, and thank God I have made it,” said Jepchirchir. “It was my birthday this week and I told my husband I would work extra hard to get the win.”
Jepchirchir led Kenya to a decisive victory in the team title, their first since 2016, when they also swept the medal positions. Their top three had a cumulative time of 3:22:25, with Ethiopia second with 3:27:55 and Great Britain and Northern Ireland claiming bronze with 3:29:15.
“I am so happy for team Kenya,” said Jepchirchir. “I knew we would sweep this as a team because I trust my colleagues so much.”
Sebastian Sawe won the men's half marathon gold medal in 59.10 ahead of Daniel Ebenyo, the world 10,000m silver medallist, who settled for silver in 59.14 as Samuel Mailu (59.19) took bronze.
Ten years after winning the world U20 cross-country title, Ethiopia’s Hagos Gebrhiwet earned his long-awaited first senior global title by winning the men’s 5km title.
The 29-year-old crossed the line in 12:59 to lead an Ethiopian 1-2 finish from Yomif Kejelcha (13:02). Kenya’s Nicholas Kipkorir earned his first global medal taking bronze in 13:16.
Ethiopia’s Diribe Welteji turned the tables on three-time world 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon to win the inaugural women's world mile title in unofficial world record of 4:20.98.
The men’s mile lived up to its status as the most wide-open event as USA’s 20-year-old Hobbs Kessler took a surprising victory in unofficial world record of 3:56.13.
It was a day to forget for Kenya’s world U20 mile record-holder Reynold Kipkorir Cheruiyot.