The World Indoor Championships were memorable for many reasons. For Kenya, it is a new low at a World Indoor, with one medal, won on the final day in the 3000 meters, by Bethwell Birgen. In his weekly A View from Kenya, Justin Lagat, our long time correspondent, writes of the challenges in Birmingham for the athletes from Kenya.
Bethwel Birgen won the only medal for Kenya at the 2018 IAAF world indoor championships
Were it not for Bethwel Birgen’s determined effort to win a medal in the men’s 3000m race, Kenya would have come back with no medal at all during the just concluded IAAF world indoor championships in Birmingham.
Trouble started for Kenya even before the start of the championships when Emmanuel Korir failed to secure his visa on time to attend the world event. Korir was one of the greatest hopefuls to medal for Kenya after he had recently set a new African and a new Millrose Games’ record in the 800m indoor event when he ran 1:44.21 last month.
On the first day during the women’s 3000m event, Hellen Obiri could only finish fourth behind the three runners who dominated the distance events in Birmingham; Genzebe Dibaba, Sifan Hassan and Laura Muir. The three of them got double medals in both the 3000m and 1500m events, Dibaba getting the two gold medals while the other two exchanged the remaining medals.
On the third day of the championships, Margaret Wambui, another medal hopeful for Kenya in the women’s 800m event, got disqualified for lane violation after she had finished second behind Francine Niyonsaba in the third heat. This happened after Winnie Chebet who was preparing for the 1500m finals later in the day had failed to qualify to the finals as well, perhaps having put her focus more in the 1500m event. Wambui had won a bronze medal during the last world indoor championships and, with more experience she had gained in the last two years, she seemed to have had the potential to better it to a silver medal.
Hopes for Kenyan fans to win any medals at the championships were beginning to diminish on the last day with the talk on the men’s 3000m event being on a possible clean sweep of podium positions by the Ethiopians. The Ethiopian runners seemed to exude a lot of confidence going into the race as the three followed the rest of the field from behind as they awaited the last few laps to unleash their finishing kicks. This made the race look more like a jog and a 1500m race and it worked well for Bethwel Birgen who was just fresh from winning the distance at the Glasgow indoor meeting. Birgen held on to a strong finishing kick behind Yomif Kejelcha in the last lap before Selemon Barega overtook him just before the finish line, moving him to the bronze position. That became the single medal that Kenya won at the world indoor championships.
At the last championships in 2016, Kenya had won two bronze medals through Augustine Choge and Margaret Wambui.