Year of superb athletics show
By MUTWIRI MUTUOTA
Having never hosted the CAA African Senior Athletics Championships before, this year, the onus was on the host to show their continental counterparts who bossed the sport when 46 nations came calling in Nairobi.
From July 28 to August 1, the country was gripped by athletics mania as the famed red, green and black stripped runners displayed their craft on their home turf for the first time since the 2007 Mombasa 2007 World Cross.
The 17th edition of the biennial continental track and field jamboree was almost a non-starter six months from the opening ceremony when bitter turf wars between Government and Athletics Kenya (AK) top brass clashed over its organisation.
With the spat resolved a week to the beginning of the year, Nairobi 2010 Local Organising Committee (LOC) embarked on a frenetic race against time to cobble up the event and come July 28, President Mwai Kibaki was at hand to officially open the festival.
Our anthem was the first and last to be played at Nyayo National Stadium in a fitting salute to the excellence of the red, green and black stripped team.
The largest ever squad gathered for a track and field event topped the medal charts at the African Championships for the first time when they won ten gold, seven silver and eight bronze medals.
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Wilson Kiprop, who capped a fine season by reclaiming the World Half Marathon title from Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese in October, got the medal rally off to a flier when he won the first final of the opening day, the men 10,000m in 27:32.91.
Kiprop edged out charging Ugandan Moses Kipsiro (27:33.37) who claimed silver as compatriot, Geoffrey Mutai (27:33.83) arrived for bronze.
Day 2 belonged to world women 5,000m champion Vivian Cheruiyot who once again owned archrival, Ethiopia’s Meseret Defar (16:20.54) in a searing kick for the finish in 16:18.72.
On the third day, the world got a glimpse of what 800m high Moran, David Lekuta Rudisha was about to do when he ran an astonishing 1:42.84, the quickest mark recorded over attitude. Rudisha also led compatriots Alfred Kirwa (1:44.85) and Jackson Kivuva (1:45.87) to a first ever two-lap podium sweep in the history of the competition.
Richard Mateelong (8:23.54) held on to his 3,000m steeple continental title by silencing world titleholder, Ezekiel Kemboi (8:26.13) who came in for silver as Ethiopia’s Roba Gary (8:27.15) denied Kenya the clean sweep in ‘their race’.
Olympic champion, Nancy Jebet Lagat closed the day’s golden collection when she scorched Ethiopian challenger and titleholder; Gelete Burka with a last lap roasting with 4:10.43 against 4:11.12.
World 10,000m champion, Linet Masai (31:59.36) was on the receiving end of another finishing master class served by Ethiopia’s Tirunesh ‘The Destroyer’ Dibaba who won her country’s only gold in 31:51.39 on the penultimate day of competition.The flood gates opened on the last day when Grace Wanjiru set the African record in the women’s 20km Race Walking of 1:34:19 for her third continental title.
Milcah Chemos then ascended to her maiden African 3000m women’s steeplechase crown when she stopped Ethiopia’s Sofia Assefa (9:32.58) in 9:32.18 with Lydia Rotich (9:37.32) coming in for bronze. Tactical running by Olympics champion, Asbel Kiprop saw him reign over his 1,500m speciality in 3:36.19 before Edwin Soi (13:30.46) profited from a costly slip from teammate Vincent Yator (13:30.53) to take the men’s 5000m title as Mark Kiptoo (13:32.45) ensured Kenya’s second podium shut out.
Before that, Olympics silver winner, Janeth Jepkosgei (2:00.50) suffered a stunning defeat to little known Algerian, Zahra Bouras (2:00.20). Kenya however, saved the best for last when the 4x400m quartet sealed the overall title at the expense of Nigeria and South Africa when they clocked 3:09.92 for gold.
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