Our winning tactic: Talking to one another in the race boosted Kenya’s performance, says Masai


Winner Gladys Cherono (centre), Mary Wacera Ngugi (left) and third placed Selly Chepyego Kaptich pose with their medals after the women’s race of IAAF World Half Marathon Championships 2014 in Copenhagen on Saturday. [PHOTO:AFP]

The Kenyan team arrives home this morning after the successful Copenhagen sojourn at the 20th IAAF World Half Marathon Championships here on Saturday.

The team, which swept the top five spots in the women’s race to reclaim individual and team gold medals – left Kastrup Airport in Copenhagen last evening aboard KLM Dutch Airlines to Amsterdam, The Netherlands, on transit to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Double Africa Gladys Cherono anchored Kenyans into reclaiming individual and team titles from neighbours Ethiopia.

Cherono led silver medalist Mary Wacera Ngugi and bronze medalist Sally Chepyego Kaptich into posting personal best times on the relatively flat course even as race favourite Lucy Kabuu and Mercy Kibarus sealed the championships’ first ever sweep in history.

They exhibited high team spirit thanks to a tip from Edith Masai, the team coach and a three-time world cross-country four-kilometre winner.

Cherono, a soldier with the Kenya Defence Forces, aptly puts it: “Our coach Edith Masai advised us to talk during the race. We could create space, study our opponents and whisper to ourselves. And the strategy worked well. That’s why I fired away in the final stages.”

centre of attraction

Masai, the Africa 3,000m record holder, was the centre of attraction as she excitedly ran along the course to urge her charges to sweep the board.

When Kibarus seemed to finish sixth, Masai shouted in her Kalenjin language ‘bir chito’ (Just beat one) and it eventually paid up. “There was no magic. I just borrowed winning tactics from our then coach Mike Kosgei (former AK head coach). Kosgei always insisted that athletes should be talking during competitions to disorient the opposition. It destabilises their plans,” Masai told FeverPitch after the race.

Cherono became the third Kenyan to lift the crown and saluted her boss General Julius Karangi, the KDF Chief of Defence Forces.

“I am happy for the win. I had prepared well and when we reached the one-hour mark, I realised my team mates were not strong enough. I then decided to break away,” said the Cherono, an alumnus of Singoronik High School in Kericho.

kenyan exports not lucky

Former world champions Tegla Loroupe and Lorna Kiplagat, now a Dutch citizen but won while still a Kenyan, are other previous home winners.

Kenya bowed to Eritrea for the men’s team gold while Ethiopia settled for bronze. Eritrea produced five athletes in top-ten against Kenya’s three winners Geoffrey Kipsang, Wilson Kiprop (sixth) and Africa 10,000m champion Kenneth Kipkemoi in 10th. South Africa and Uganda finished in fourth and fifth places.

All Ugandans were fresh from the Africa cross-country championships two weeks ago in Kampala except for Geoffrey Kusuro, who was the first Ugandan in 11th place.

Kenyan ‘exports’ were not lucky, either. Bahrain’s Isaac Korir finished 23rd while USA’s Josphat Boit and Shadrack Biwott came in 21 and 39 places respectively.

Biwott, a younger kin of former Rottedam Marathon winner, said: “We did our best. The competition was tough.”

Ethiopian-turned-Bahrain runners Bacha Zalem and Shugi Bilisuma also failed to impress.

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