We asked Justin Lagat, our correspondent in Kenya, to update us on all performances of Kenyans in the Commonwealth Games. Here is his first piece on the women’s marathon!
Filomena Cheyech, photo by PhotoRun.net
Filomena Cheyech Daniel Lands First Gold for Kenya in Glasgow, the view from Kenya, by Justin Lagat
This year’s Paris marathon women champion, Filomena Cheyech, has just also been crowned the Commonwealth champion. She won the second gold medal on offer for athletics in the Glasgow Games after the first one was taken by Australia’s Michael Shelly on the men’s version of the race.
On the streets of Glasgow where residents had turned out in large numbers to witness and enjoy the event, Filomena Daniel took a great lead with a few kilometers to the finish and the only other lady who was able to get close her was her compatriot, Caroline Kilel. The two were together at around the 40km mark when Filomena again began to surge forward and slowly started to create and stretch a gap between them.
The race was as good as won with one kilometer to go as Filomena ran alone without a challenger. She crossed the finish line in 2:26.45. Caroline Kilel, who was the most experienced and decorated of the Kenyans, followed in 2:27.10 while Jess Trengove of Australia took the bronze medal in 2:30.12. The other Kenyan in this race, Philis Ongori, did not start.
I first met Filomena sometime in, either late 2007 or early 2008, while she had briefly visited Kapsait Nike Athletics Training Camp. It is an athletics camp situated in one of the highest points on the Kenyan highlands, but in one of the remote places that is not easily accessible. She had arrived during the day while we had already done our morning run. Evening runs were not always compulsory there and she had found me and another young man getting ready for an evening run and asked whether she could join us.
Being new to running, we always liked adding some competition to our runs and so as we ran back on a hilly course, towards the camp, we started to increase the pace. Our first aim, although we did not communicate verbally, was to drop the lady. But she hanged on.
It only made us feel that the pace was not hard enough and continued to push harder. It ended up being one of the hardest evening runs I ever ran. At the end of that race, which was supposed to be an easy evening run, Cheyech could only look at us and smile. We were too shy to ask her who she was, but soon inquired from others and learned that she was a professional athlete based in Japan.
From then on, I knew that she was going to shine on the global stage one time and have always been watching out for her name in major marathon competitions. Today, she just proved that I was right about her.
Filomena’s win will serve to boost the morale of the other Kenyan athletes to run in the next races. Kenyan women had also won a gold and a silver medal during the 2010 Delhi Games. It is a good start which may be an indication that Kenya’s performance in Glasgow may likely end as great as the last edition of the Commonwealth Games.