Kenyans Continue their Dominance in Copenhagen, by Justin Lagat
Like it has happened in the last editions of the world half marathon championships, Kenya's performance in Copenhagen was impressive. The nation's national anthem was played three times, and the only other nation which had theirs sung was Eritrea after its athletes won the men's team title.
The opposite just happened from what was expected by many. With the caliber of Kenyan men's team, a team title looked almost obvious for them while Eritrea's Zersenay Tadese looked poised to clinch the individual title given his past achievements and experience in the event. Instead, Eritrea ended up with the team while Kenya took the individual title.
A big group of athletes maintained the leading pack up until after 10km. Occasionally, Tadese would surge forward, like he has always been doing in the previous championships, but the rest would not give him the chance to break away. He would then retreat back into the group. He had earlier said before the race that he had different tactics to use and whenever he retreated we, as a group of fans watching the event at a hotel in Eldoret, would wonder what tactic he was going to pull out next. He began to drop from the leading back with about five kilometers to go and Wilson Kiprop dropped with him. But still, we would wonder whether it was not a tactic to ensure that his countryman, Tsegay would take the opportunity to run away while the rest of the athletes were still concentrating on him. Who knows? Perhaps that was one of the many tactics he had alleged he would employ in the race.
Wilson Kiprop had looked strong in the middle stages of the race, but the fact that he kept glancing back, probably in search of his other compatriots was worrying. The field looked so competitive and one guy observed that it was only proper for him to concentrate fully on running his own race at that moment, of which I agreed.
Geoffrey Kamworor was able to run his own race well when it mattered, never looking back when his team mates began to drop. He knew when it was the perfect time to break away and go for the individual gold medal. Tsegay and Adola, the two athletes who were following him closely were too exhausted to react when Kamworor finally began to accelerate towards the finish line. This enabled him have an early celebration, waving to spectators with some meters to go and finally flapping his hands as he crossed the tape in 59:08. His overwhelming joy could not be concealed. Tsegaye was second and Adola third both registering the same time of 59:20.
Kenyans dominated the women event completely by taking all the top five positions. It was historic.
At about 10 Kilometers, there were five Kenyans and two Ethiopians in the leading group. Gladys Cherono appeared to be limping on her right leg, but that is her usual running style. It reminded me of Priscah Jeptoo, the London Marathon champion who also has a unique running style. Selly Kaptich looked very relaxed at that stage and the camera would often focus on her face. She was not even sweating. One would have easily concluded that she was going to easily win the gold.
After the Ethiopians had dropped together with one Kenyan from the leading group, Lucy Kabuu was the next one to drop. It was now three Kenyans remaining in the lead; Kaptich, Ngugi and Cherono.
With about two kilometers to go, Cherono began to accelerate leaving her compatriots trailing her in a single file. She went ahead to cross the finish line in 1:07:28. Ngugi followed in 1:07:43 while Kaptich was third in 1:07:51. Kabuu and Jerotich followed respectively to complete a clean sweep of the first five positions by Kenyans.
It was another great outing for Kenya and I am already looking forward to the next world half championships in Cardiff, Wales where I will be eager to watch if Kenyans will continue their dominance.