Indoors Kenyan duo chase glory in 3,000m final: Kiplagat and Birgen chase Indoors glory

By DENNIS OKEYO AND IAAF: Sunday, March 4th 2018 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Athletics
5000m runner Davis Kiplagat relax after his training sessaion at Moi International Sport Centre, Kasarani on July 27, 2017 ahead of IAAF London World Championships. [Dennis Okeyo, Standard]

Pre-race favourite Chelimo of USA disqualified in heats.

A Kenyan duo and trio of Ethiopians were among the top qualifiers for today’s 3,000m men's final at the ongoing World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, England. 

Bethwell Birgen and Davis Kiplagat will battle against defending champion Yomif Kejelcha who qualified with a 7:42.83 heat one victory, while his Ethiopian teammate, Hagos Gebrhiwet, followed him home closely in 7:43.55.

The 2015 World Youth silver medallist Kiplangat ensured Kenya have a firm presence in the final, thanks to a 7:48.26 showing behind another Ethiopian Selemon Barega, who has ran the quickest time this season after clocking 7:36.64.

Birgen and Youness Essalhi of Morocco registered 7:45.06 and 7:45.07, respectively to make it to the finals.

Olympic 5,000m silver medalist Paul Chelimo of the USA, a pre-race favourite was disqualified for lane infringements.

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Ivorian joy

Meanwhile, Murielle Ahoure of the Ivory Coast soared to an emphatic 60m victory in a world-leading 6.97 to finally step atop of the medals podium following her silver medal runs at the 2012 and 2014 editions of these championships.

The 30-year-old, who finished fourth in the 100m at last year’s World Championships, broke the UK all-comers’ record to move to sixth on the world indoor all-time list. The last time any woman ran faster was in 1999.

With a lightning fast start, she followed up her world-leading 7.01 in the semifinal earlier in the afternoon with a time that bettered her 6.99 PB, set in the same Birmingham venue back in 2013.

“I’m so happy,” said Ahoure, who became the first athlete from the Ivory Coast to win a global athletics title. “I’ve trained so hard for this and this medal is for my coach and my team that have trained me so hard. I knew the most important thing would be getting out of the blocks and executing my race, focusing on my race, focusing on my lane.”

In men’s long jump finals, an illustrating competitive nerve and verve beyond his 19 years, Cuba’s Juan Miguel Echevarria emerged victorious in one of the most competitive World Indoor Championships long jump finals in recent memory.

Gold medallist

Leading from the opening round, Echevarria sparred with the heavily favoured world champion Luvo Manyonga nearly blow-for-blow in the second half of the competition before becoming, at 19 years and 203 days old, the youngest field event gold medallist at an indoor world championships.

Opening with an 8.19m opening effort, Echevarria improved to 8.28m in the second, with just two others in the field, defending champion Marquis Dendy and South African Ruswahl Samaa, producing a leap beyond eight metres, each at 8.02m.

The competition didn’t fully spring to life until round three when Manyonga found himself against a wall after two (long) fouls — one more would consign him to the nearby row of spectator seats.

He responded well, reaching 8.33m to stay alive and take the lead. In the next round, Echevarria responded in kind, jumping 8.36m.