EUGENE: THE MYSTERIOUS APPEARANCE OF SILAS KIPLAGAT AT THE FINISH LINE, by Justin Lagat. UPDATED June 20, 2 pm C.D.T.
Sometimes things happen in such coincidences that at the end of it all you keep wondering whether there wasn't a supernatural hand in it! It is not only the events that unfolded in the Bowerman mile race at the IAAF's Diamond League in Eugene that I am talking about, but all the circumstances that brought me to be where I watched the event, and the people that ended up surrounding me at the table where I watched the event! Silas Kiplagat's brother came and sat directly opposite me a few minutes to the start of the race, and around fifteen other local and international athletes who are often in the company of Silas while here in Kenya came and occupied other seats around me too, Sammy Kitwara being one of them.
There was a big screen behind Silas' brother and another one was also behind me, so that in order to shift my focus from the happenings on the screen to the expressions on his face was just but a simple adjustment of my eye lenses! We had exchanged some greetings as he chatted a little with a guy who sat next to me before he sat on the opposite seat and kept cool, to an extent that, had I not known the anticipation he had, I would have thought he was angry with someone. Towards the end of the Bowerman mile race, it seemed no one in the room was still thinking of Silas and our concentration was on Asbel Kiprop as he seemed to be competing only against Aman Wote of Ethiopia at that moment. Then, seemingly out of the blue, Kiplagat appeared mysteriously at the finish line and won the race, just as Asbel was about raise his hand in celebration! In fact, for a moment almost everyone in the room was wondering who the athlete who just passed the finish line was before the cameras focused on the label written behind his vest as he walked away. His brother was probably the first one to react. He jumped up screaming and pointing at the screen with a bottle that was half full, or half empty depending on how you view it. Shock and happiness immediately began to spread around the rest of Silas' fans as shouts and screams filled the air. A glass fell down from the table. The DJ in the club increased the volume of the music that was playing and I stuck my index fingers into my ears as the cacophony of sounds which at the moment sounded like a strong hail storm against iron roofs became too much for me. Smoke fumes were released and disco lights turned on making the whole room turn into a dance hall. Fortunately, it was the last event of the night, a few minutes past mid-night here in Kenya.
Just to come out clear that it was not my intention to end up at Silas Kiplagat's celebration party, I will briefly elaborate how I ended up there. It may also interest foreigners who want to know the night life of Eldoret. I entered the town at a time when I expected there were still free entries into the clubs here. The first two clubs I tried had already begun to issue tickets at their entrances. So, I hurried here and I was the last person that got in before they started charging at the entrance. I also was the first to take the table, so the rest came later and made my table their party.
About the other events, I learnt that blocking, jostling and shoving do not just happen at the start of races as it happened here at the finish line in the 3000m steeplechase race, and it is always good to be always on the right side of the law. I would prefer to keep my thoughts to myself on what transpired here as I congratulate the top three athletes; Conselsus Kipruto, Paul Kipsiele Koech and Benabbad Mekhissi. I will also live to remember for a long time the finishing kick of Edwin Soi as he ran past Mo Farah and Thomas Longosiwa to win in the men's 5000m race.
As most people had anticipated, the Eugene Diamond League ended up as one of the most enjoyable and memorable events of all time. I don't know about you, but for me, I am going to download the Bowerman mile race to keep trying to comprehend that surprise finish by Silas Kiplagat, and my first question to Asbel Kiprop, when I meet him, will be his thoughts on this race. Although the surprised and dazed look on his face when he realized Silas had taken the win, was worth at least a thousand words!