The final day has Justin Lagat smiling as Kenya moved up the medal count to numero uno in the African Athletics Championships after a clearn sweep in the women’s 3000m steeplechase, gold and silver in men’s 1,500m and gold in Men’s 4x400m, silver in women’s 4x400m and a sensational win in Mens’ 5000 meters! Here’s how Justin Lagat saw the final day in Asaba, Nigeria!
The final day of the African senior athletics championships was the best ever for Kenya as her athletes garnered four more gold medals that ensure the country moved to the top of the medal table by the end of the day. South Africa came second on the table while the host nation, Nigeria took the third position.
Fresh from running a world record, Beatrice Chepkoech was in a class of her own in the women’s 3000m steeplechase final, as she ran alone ahead of the rest. At some point in the middle of the race, Celliphine Chespol also broke away from the chasing pack to remain safely in the silver medal position leaving her compatriot, Fancy Cherono, to battle it out for the bronze. Chepkoech took the win comfortably with Chespol seeming to be also contended with the silver position as the two watched and cheered for Cherono as she kicked hard to secure the bronze position and a clean podium sweep for the Kenyans.
Elijah Manangoi has always been upsetting Timothy Cheruiyot when it comes to the major championship races and this day was not an exception. Just like at the London world championships, as well as at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Manangoi led Cheruiyot to their recent tradition of 1-2 finish in this event.
Edward Zakayo won the well-attended men’s 5000m race that had over twenty runners in an exhilarating final lap that had a huge leading pack still in contention for medals even at the bell. Of late, races that have always been run in this version have not been going well for the Kenyans due to their lack of strong finishing speed, but if there is one Kenyan runner who has mastered the art of strong finishing and who is putting Kenyans back on the medal positions in this event, then it is none other than Zakayo. He was able to out-sprint Getaneh Tamire of Ethiopia and Yename Hislassie of Eritrea who settled for silver and bronze positions respectively in the last 150m. Selemon Barega, who was seen by many to be the main threat for Zakayo, could only finish in 4th position.
Perhaps the surprise of the day came in the men’s, and also in the women’s, 4X400m relays in which the Kenyans won it against the pre-race favorites that included Nigeria and South Africa. Kenyans are known for their distance running, but with what just happened in Asaba where the Kenyan men won gold while the women won the silver medal, things appear to be changing for the country and soon there will be great sprinters coming out of Kenya too.