Julius Yego, photo by PhotoRun.net
Julius Yego won the gold medal in the Commonwealth Javelin, defeating the current Olympic champion, Keshorn Walcott, to do it! In this column, Justin Lagat speaks of the significance of this win!
Kenya’s Performance at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, by Justin Lagat
At the close of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Kenya is placed in position 9 at the overall medal standings and 3rd on the African continent behind South Africa and Nigeria and just like it did at the last Games, had topped in athletics with 10 gold medals, 10 silver medals and 3 bronze medals. The country won only 2 bronze medals outside athletics, in powerlifting and boxing.
Kenya had placed 5th overall at the 2010 Games in New Delhi and 1st on the African continent. It had led the Games at the medal standings in athletics with 11 gold medals, 10 silver medals and 8 bronze medals. Other two medals; a gold and a bronze had been won in aquatics and in boxing respectively.
Julius Kiplagat Yego won the first ever gold medal by a Kenya in the Commonwealth Games’ Javelin event and given that all the other gold medals won by Kenyans in Glasgow came from the middle and long distance events, Yego’s gold will be much more significant than any of those. It will act to show the upcoming Kenyan athletes that there are also opportunities to shine in other track and field events besides running only in the 800m to the marathon distances. It is a matter of one having a vision and working to achieve it.
Commonly referred to as the “You Tube” athlete, Yego did not follow the usual path taken by other athletes from his community, but instead, used the internet to acquire techniques on throwing the javelin. He began to realize the fruits of his endeavors when he became the first Kenyan to win a gold medal in the javelin event at the All Africa Games in 2011. He became the first Kenyan to compete at the Olympic Games in javelin at the 2012 London Olympics and managed to sail through to the finals there. He also almost made it to the podium positions at the 2013 world championships when he finished in fourth position.
His time finally came at the Glasgow Games when he threw 83.87m to beat the 2012 Olympic champion, Keshorn Walcott who threw 82.67m to finish 2nd ahead of Australia’s Hamish Peacock who threw 81.75m to take the bronze medal. This win was a major milestone in his career as he has now finally gotten to win gold in such a major international championship event.
Had Yego not found the courage and wisdom to give up on running and take up javelin throwing, Kenya would have now ended up at some other position further down the table at the medal standings in Glasgow. If Kenyans had only maintained the same gold medals it won in Delhi, like for the men’s 800m and marathon, then Yego’s gold medal would have served to push the country upwards on the medal standings.
Kenyans can now hope that by the time the next Commonwealth Games happen, other Kenyan athletes would have been inspired by Julius Yego’s success and the country shall have a wider range of events to go for gold medals, not only in other field events like the hammer, discus throws and the jumps, but also in other disciplines like cycling, badminton, diving, hockey, judo, shooting, table tennis and lawn bowls, among others.
Talking of Lawn Bowls, I remember someone was wondering how it is that someone who rolls a ball on the ground can win the same one gold medal as someone who has run for entire 42km. Surely, some Kenyans can roll these balls too during the next Games! Why not?