The 2017 IAAF World Cross Country in Kamapala was huge on the drama and hot and humid on the performances. The host country, Uganda, had much to cheer for, as Uganda took team bronze in women U20, gold single in men’s U20 and bronze in men’s senior race.
Kenya was the big winner today, with Ethiopia making them work hard for the medals. Here is Justin Lagat’s jubilant piece on the Kenyan succeses’ in Kampala.
Kenyans won the largest number of medals in Kampala, but the headlines and the talk that will go on long after the world cross championships will definitely be on two Ugandans; Jacob Kiplimo and Joshua Cheptigei.
Jacob Kiplimo made history in the junior men’s race by running hard and driving the Ugandan fans wild on his way to landing his country the first ever gold medal in a world cross country event. Two Kenyans, Ladema and Kirui, had acted as pace setters for Kiplimo in the early stages of the race and when they began to fade, the wild cheering by the Ugandan fans propelled Kiplimo to his historic win. Ethiopia’s Amderwork Walelegn finished second while Kenya’s Richard Kimunyan finished 3rd. Kiplimo instantly became a hero as everyone, including his president wanted to take a picture with him. It was a great win for the Ugandans.
Joshua Cheptigei sought to replicate this in the senior men’s race, but, for him all did not go as he had planned. Having appeared to be a clear winner with over one lap to go, he suddenly started to loose his strength as Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor caught up with him with less than 800m to go. Then other athletes started running past him as he staggered towards the finish to end up in 30th position.
Kamworor knew that the race would not be over until it was over and maintained a steady pace just behind Cheptigei. His patience paid as he was able to defend his world title and led Kenyans to a 1-2 finish as Leornard Barsoton followed to take second place. Abadi Hadis of Ethiopia took third and led his country men in winning the team title. It was just like in the last edition in Guiyang where the Kenyans had won the top two individual medal, but the team title had also gone to Ethiopia.
However, Kenya’s women did wonders in their senior race by taking all the first six positions. At half way into the race, it was already becoming a replay of Kenya’s national trials as Irene Cheptai, Lilian Kasait, Faith Kipyegon and Alice Aprot were in a leading pack of four while Agnes Tirop and Hyvin Kiyeng followed closely behind. At the bell, there were three at the front; Cheptai, Kasait and Aprot as Kipyegon was slowly begining to loose some ground on them. But, all the Kenyans were already all at the front in a single file. Cheptai shook off the rest of the field with about 500m to go as she went ahead to win the world title. Alice Aprot came in second as Lilian Kasait finished 3rd.
Letensebet Gidey of Ethiopia was in a class of her own as she ran behind two Kenyans in the junior women’s race before pulling away in the last lap to win the race comfortably. Hawi Feysa overtook the two Kenyans also to finish second as Kenya’s Celliphine Chepsol took 3rd.
Another race that the Kenyans showed their dominance was in the new mixed race. After Asbel Kiprop’s opening leg but them ahead of the field, Kenyans maintained the lead throughout the race to become the fist ever champions in the event. Ethiopia was second while Turkey came third.