2019 in Review: Kenyan stars light up Doha
Kenya again showed her athletics prowess at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, finishing second on the overall medal standings in a performance that matched its previous rank at London 2017.
Athletics Kenya (AK) had set out to better its medal haul at the Qatari capital but picked up an identical total of 11 including five gold, two silver and four bronze; exactly the same combination from two years ago.
Victories however came in different races this time, where the team lost in the women’s 1500m but secured the women’s 3000m steeplechase. Kenya also lost the men’s title in marathon but secured the women’s title last won by Edna Kiplagat in Moscow 2013.
When the championship kicked off, on September 27, Kenya’s athletics fans had an easy day as media headlines said it all, Kenya to begin the Worlds Gold harvest on day one, the smiles looked real as the day progressed when the only representative in the 800m women’s race Eunice Jepkoech Sum qualified for the semifinals despite finishing fourth on heat two.
Then the 3000m women’s steeplechase heats where only Fancy Cherono failed to make the cut Hyvin Kiyeng, Beatrice Chepkoech and Celliphine Chespol all made the semis.
The men’s 5000m semi-final was not different as Kenya’s representatives Nicholas Kipkoris Kimeli and Jacob Krop all made the final a race shadowed by the exclusion of youngsters national champion Michael Kibet and Daniel Simiyu who were not allowed to compete after failing to undergo the required number of pre-competition doping tests, the two had finished one-two in the qualifying competition.
Ruth Chepng’etich crowed it all on the wee hours running in to the morning of day two with gold in the women’s marathon which was the first for Kenya in Doha.
Day two proper would however be totally different for team Kenya with hopes of Hellen Obiri going for a double in the Worlds, but first the 10,000m, which would not be easy as Obiri, 30, would not match the inform Dutch, Sifan Hassan who won in a World leading time.
Obiri only made a distance fifth behind second placed Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia and a Kenyan duo of Agnes Tirop and Rosemary Wanjiru respectively.
The podium miss left her suggesting she might have failed to defend her 5,000m title.
“The race had a high pace, despite the nice weather in the stadium my body failed to respond, psychologically it has affected me and I will wait before making the decision,” Obiri said at the time.
“I have had a long season, so many races but winning the cross country earlier in the year is a consolation to me,”
Only two Kenyans were on duty on day three where Ferguson Rotich easily sailed to the next round from heat one while Emmanuel Korir fell on the way.
Ululations had to wait on day four as Jacob Krop fell to the sixth place in the Men’s 5000m final won by Ethiopia’s Edris Muktar, but Kenya’s happiness returned in the final of the women’s 3000m steeplechase as Kenya’s steeplechase queen Beatrice Chepkoech led from gun to tape to win Kenya her second gold in a championship record time of 8:57.84.
“I had to start early because I knew everyone was in shape, my aim was to take home the title – World Champion – after missing it in 2017,” Chepkoech said after her victory.
More silence followed in Kenya’s camp on day five with only one final involving Kenya’s athletes where Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich managed a bronze for Kenya a race won by American Donavan Brazier.
With the championship already halfway fear started grappling in Kenya’s camp as there were only two Gold medals to show far away from the London performance of five gold medals in 2017 and fear of not passing the record leave alone matching.
Two more days of finals where Kenyans were not involved followed Day six and seven heightening the pressure, but reprieve came two days to the last day where Conseslus Kipruto tipped Ethiopia’s youngster Lamecha Girma on the line to win the men’s 3000m steeplechase being the first threat in recent past in the event dubbed Kenya’s.
Kipruto, the Olympic champion said the stiff competition witnessed in the final is a signal that Kenya’s supreme dominance in the event is under great threat.
“It was a very strong competition, I tried to go in front to control the pace but they were their behind chasing because they knew I was going to sprint,” Kipruto said.
“Steeplechase is no longer a Kenyan affair; many would have wanted us to sweep the medal but we have very strong competitors, for this race I thought it’s important to win, we call ourselves the power house of steeplechase but we need to invest in the young athletes and make sure we have facilities, this season I have been out due to injury and if I was not here today we could have lost this,” Kipruto said.
A one-two finish in the women’s 5000m final restored Kenya’s supremacy in the long distance where Hellen Obiri put a side her disappointment in the 10,000m final to defend her world title only minutes after Olympic Champion Faith Chepng’etich surrendered her 1,500m title to Dutch Sifan Hassan.
The day would however not end on a golden note as Amos Kipruto managed a Bronze in the Men’s Marathon.
On his fourth attempt Timothy Cheruiyot secured Kenya her fifth Gold after saving the best for the last but Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei would however still the show for team Kenya as he scooped the 10,000m Gold and keep Kenya’s 29 years wait alive for the distance medal.
Kenya ended the tournament with a total of 11 medals 5 gold, 2 silver and 4 bronze.