Justin Lagat, our correspondent from Eldoret, Kenya captured for us, a moment in Kenyan Athletics, that would have been unheard of only a few years ago. The Kenyan men were shut out of the 10,000 meters, and now, the 1,500 meters.
More Questions Than Answers As Locals Watch The 1500m Event in Eldoret
by Justin Lagat
August 8, 2012
ELDORET – One local channel, the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), is showing live coverage of some of the Olympic events here in Kenya, so I could have just watched the men’s 1500m event in my house if I wanted to, but instead, decided it would be more enjoyable watching it in a hall with other athletes and the local populace. That way, I would be able to hear many pre-race comments and also to celebrate or mourn with the others. The hall was full. It isn’t always that full. It was because everyone wanted to watch their favorite athlete as well as one of the most favorite events for Kenyans; Asbel Kiprop and the 1500m. There were other preceding events where we watched all Kenyans make it through to the finals in the 800m heats Others included the women’s 200m semi-finals, the finals of the men’s discus throw where a German athlete tore his vest and ran about in celebration after winning the gold medal, and the women’s 110m hurdles where Sally Pearson of Australia won, among others.
Finally, the 1500m athletes lined up at the starting point. Three Kenyans with the fastest times this season were in the race, and if they were going to run their best times, then definitely it was going to be the 1-2-3 positions for them, but by the look of things, that wasn’t going to be the case. The field contained many strong athletes and it was not easy to predict the winner. Taoufik Makhloufi, of Algeria, had run an amazing final lap at the semi-finals and appeared in tremendous form.
The Algerian shot himself in front and set a fast pace as soon as the gun went off, then relaxed a bit and let Belal of Bahrain take the lead as they crossed the first lap in 58.30. Asbel Kiprop was behind the pack and no one could tell whether the pace was too high for him, or whether he was just waiting for the right time to move, as he often does. Nixon Chepseba of Kenya decided to take the lead towards the 800m mark and crossed it in 1:58, he continued to set the pace at the front for another lap increasing it slightly as they came to the bell. By then, Asbel Kiprop began to drop and seemed not in any mood to try to catch up. He also appeared to be limping a little.
The crowd in the hall stood up as the only remaining hope for Kenya, Silas Kiplagat, hit the front together with Taoufik and Chepseba at the sound of the bell, but then Taoufik reacted and began to take the lead in the remaining three hundred meters. Silas struggled behind him, but soon ran out of his finishing power despite the crowd inside the hall going hoarse as they cheered him on. He was passed by five athletes in the home stretch and silence ensued in the hall. Before all athletes could cross the finish line, the crowd began to leave the hall in disappointment. The TV set was turned off before the race was even completely over. To learn the official winners, I had to come and check the results on the internet in my house. Taoufik won in 3:34:08, Leonel Manzano of USA became second in 3:34:79 and Abdalaati Iguider of Morocco completed the list of the medalists in 3:35:13.
As we dispatched, there were many more questions than answers as to what could have gone wrong with the Kenyan team sent to the Olympic this time. To lessen our disappointment, I still remember one man saying that there are other countries who have never ever won a gold medal at the Olympics and they would declare a one week holiday if they won it, and so as Kenyans we should be contented with anything that we get this time around. Perhaps, this is a time for another country to enjoy some Olympic glory too. I guess this is perhaps a time for another country to enjoy the Olympic glory too.