Flash Back: Wonderful Moments for Kenyan Athletes in 2013, by Justin Lagat

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Priscah Jeptoo, photo by PhotoRun.net 

Justin Lagat poses the question, just who is the best Kenyan athlete of 2013? There are so many to choose from in a year where Kenyan athletes shined. 
Flash Back: Wonderful Moments for Kenyan Athletes in 2013, 
by Justin Lagat

For a Kenyan athlete and a fan of Kenyan runners, 2013 has been another great year with great moments to remember and cherish. Such moments happened during the world championships in Moscow, during the IAAF Diamonds League series and world challenge events, on the roads during the world's major city marathons and on other gold and silver label road races across the world.

Starting with the world championships in Moscow, Milka Chemos' win, when she led two other Kenyans to take the podium positions in the women's 3000m steeple chase competition, was probably the best of the moments there as it ushered in a new era where Kenyan women began showing a strong capability of following in their male counter part's dominance in the 3000m steeple chase event.  Eunice Sum's surprise win in the women's 800m event was another great moment. The best the Kenyans expected from her was a bronze medal; and even that appeared to have been too much of an expectation given the strong field she was running with in the finals. Edna Kiplagat's win in the women's marathon was also great, only that it was expected.

Kenyan men were also great in Moscow, but were expected by Kenyans to do a little more than they did. The men's 800m and marathon events were not good. However, some of the men's performances were great. Such moments included Ezekiel Kemboi's win in the men's 3000m steeple chase where he led Conseslus Kipruto, who later won the IAAF Diamond League trophy for the event, to a 1 -2 podium positions for Kenya. It has always remained a puzzle as to why Ezekiel Kemboi may be beaten at other competitions, including the Kenyan trials, but not in the world's major events like the Olympics and world championships; especially when he adopts a new hair-cut before the finals. Is it the hair-cut? One would wonder.

Asbel Kiprop was also amazing this year and got much admiration by Kenyan fans not only when he won a gold medal in Moscow, but during the amazing run he ran in Monaco. His time of 3:27:71 made him the fourth fastest man in history in the 1500m event. That event will be remembered also due to Mo Farah completing second in an impressive time of 3:28, even when he was best known for specializing in the 5,000m and 10,000m events. Now, many people keep wondering whether he is doing the right thing in deciding to run marathon in 2014.

Talking of marathons, perhaps there were even greater moments for Kenyan athletes here than there were on the track. To others, Wilson Kipsang's world record in Berlin was the greatest moment. Wilson had been hinting on his intention to do that for a while. He missed it by a whisker in Frankfurt, in 2011. His focus on the record and his determination finally enabled him do it this year and this inspired many. 

To others, it is hard to rate Wilson's achievement against that of Priscah Jeptoo who won both the London and the New York city marathons, including the overall WMM trophy. Even to me, I'm confused on telling whose achievement was really the greatest this year. Priscah was focused and prepared to win London marathon from last year September when I interviewed her for RunBlogRun. Everything finally went according to her plans, perhaps even better.

Dennis Kimetto is another athlete that made Kenyans proud by winning both Tokyo and Chicago marathons. The latter win was even more exciting after he ran some parts of the race under world record pace propably making Wilson Kipsang seat on the edge of a chair as he watched him threatened to break his new world record within such a short span. Everyone agrees that Dennis Kimetto is the most promising athlete and many look forward to watching him race next year.

Four of the fastest times this year in marathon came from Kenyan athletes. Most of the big marathons across the world had majority of the top ten finishers being Kenyans. Khon Kaen International marathon in Thailand had all the top ten finishers being Kenyans. The same happened in Kigali Peace Race in Rwanda.  Only one Ethiopian in 5th position prevented a similar scenario in Gunsan Saemangeum, Korea and one Tanzanian also in 5th position prevented the same happening in Kilimanjaro Marathon in Tanzania.

As the year comes to a close, I have much to reflect on, smile about and celebrate as one of the Kenyan athletes. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all the readers who have been enjoying my columns and encouraging me to give them more stories regardingKenyan athletes and running in Kenya. 

God bless you all.

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