Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich took the first gold in Doha, Qatar, in the early hours of 28 September. This is the first daily column by Justin Lagat for Doha 2019.
Looking so determined and focused, Chepngetich broke away at the 35km point from a leading pack that had three other athletes. She never looked back again. Helalia Johannes and Ednah Kiplagat quickly began to fade, but Rose Chelimo remained hanging behind her for a while adding an element of suspense to the race. However, the background behind Chepngetich after the 40km mark soon became a clear road. She went ahead to win the race in 2:32.43. Chelimo of Bahrain came second in 2:33.46 while Namibia’s Johannes took third in 2:34.15.
During the earlier stages, at around 10 minutes into the race, Kenya’s Visiline Jepkesho and Chepng’etich had picked up their drinks and suddenly opened up a gap while the rest gulped down their drinks. It was as though it was an agreed strategy between the two. They had quickly closed the gap that had been created by Sardana Trofimova at the front and soon caused a single file from the huge pack that had remained up to that point.
When a leading pack formed again by around the 5km point, it was a smaller one and mostly contained the main contenders of the race. Israel’s Lonah Salpeter took the initiative to pace at the front for a while before she fell back as though expecting someone else to take over the pacing duties for her and a group reformed again at the front in a slow pace that even saw Jepkesho stop to tie her shoe and easily move to the front of the pack again.
They crossed the 10km point in a very slow 36 minutes, which appeared to have perhaps angered Chepngetich as she took to the front and set up another fast pace that quickly left the field in a single file again as she continued to open up the lead at the front. She was soon running alone.
At the 15km point, Chepngetich seemed to have slowed down a bit as Ednah Kiplagat, Jepkesho, Johannes and Chelimo joined her at the front. At around 25km, Jepkesho was the first one to drop back from the leading pack and soon got overtaken by Salpeter who had been running consistently behind them.
The four runners in the leading pack stayed together up to the 35km point when Chepngetich made the decisive move. It was a truly exciting end to the first day of the world championships, especially for the Kenyan fans.
Earlier on in the day, Winnie Nanyonda of Uganda became the fastest runner in 2:00:36 to qualify for the semi-finals of the women’s 800m race in which there were some major upsets. No one would have expected that Lynsey Sharp of Great Britain, currently ranked as world number 6 in the distance, would fail to advance from the heats after she ran 2:03.57 to finish fourth in her heat. Kenya’s Eunice Sum who also finished fourth in her heat narrowly made it through after becoming one of the faster losers.
Selemon Barega and Paul Chelimo won their respective heats in the men’s 5000m with strong finishing kicks that signals an exciting battle between the two in the finals.
In one event that the Kenyans have the highest hope for multiple medals; the women 3000m steeplechase, three Kenyan women; Hyvin Kiyeng, Beatrice Chepkoech and Celiphine Chespol advanced to the finals.