History as Kenya wins inaugural WXC Mixed Relay
Kenya’s won the inaugural mixed relay to secure the nation’s first gold of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Kampala, Uganda with an eight second victory over arch-rivals Ethiopia.
Olympic and World champion in the 1500m race Asbel Kiprop started off for the Kenyan team, quickly bursting forward for an early lead with Ethiopia’s Welde Tufa closely in tow.
The pair easily broke away from the rest of the field with the Ethiopian only once tasting the lead before Kiprop regained his lead and speeding at the home stretch to hand over the baton to teammate Winfried Nzisa Mbithe with a sizeable head-start.
“It will remain in history that we won the first mixed relay,” Kiprop told organisers the IAAF after the race.
His brilliant start set Kenya en route to a winning time of minutes and 22 seconds for the quartet completed by 800m runner Winfred Nzisa, Bernard Kipyego and Bernard Koros
Bone Cheluke of Ethiopia and Turkish Meryem Akdag of Turkey were quickly closing the gap in second and third with Cheluke having narrowed the deficit as they arrived at the exchange zone.
At the second changeover, Kenya had a lead of 15 seconds over Ethiopia and Turkey another 3 seconds adrift while Bahrain and Uganda kept the leaders in check to stay in the mix for a medal
Yomif Kejelcha, the world indoor champion at 3000m kept Ethiopia’s hot pursuit of Kenya, attempting to close down Bernard Koros who had a 15 seconds advantage.
Koros however ensured Kenya stayed in the driving seat heading towards the final exchange, handing over to Beatrice Chepkoech who faced the fiercest challenge of the afternoon in the form of Genzebe Dibaba, the 1500 world record holder.
As Beatrice Chepkoech received the wristband from Koros (5:34) with a 12 second lead over Kejelcha (5:22), all eyes turned to Dibaba.
Chepkoech, aware of the threat of Dibaba closing in on her, regularly glanced over her shoulder.
Dibaba was working hard to close down the gap between herself and the Kenyan. With 600m to go she was still about 15 metres behind the leader and not even her impressive 5:27 effort was enough to catch Chepkoech in the end.
With arms aloft and cheered on by the rest of her team behind the finish line, Chepkoech crossed the line to take the first gold of the day for the Kenyan relay in 22:22, eight seconds clear from Ethiopia.