Celliphine has fire burning in her belly after impressive Chlef show
Following her dramatic victory in Chlef, Algeria at the Africa Cross Country Championship that saw her bag gold in the 10 kilometres senior women race, Celliphine Chespol says that she is more motivated ahead of next month’s Commonwealth Games.
Chespol claimed the top honours in 35 minutes, 10 seconds ahead of compatriot Margaret Cherlimo (35:13) and Ethiopia’s Yeshi Kalayy Chekole (35:26), an immaculate performance and the 18-year old has attributed this to divine intervention.
“It was my first time competing in the 10km women’s senior race which is not the same in the junior category. I thought I had finished because I’m used to competing six kilometres which is three laps.
“I pulled off from the leading pack went for the finish line thinking I was through. After cutting the tape I was told to continue with the race. I did not lose hope, I asked God to guide me,” said Chespol the U-20, 3000m steeplechase record holder.
Her counterpart Alfred Barkach who was representing the country for the first time could hardly hide his joy after a tight finish. Barkach relied on his endurance and speed to deny Ugandan Thomas Ayeko the much-coveted title.
“Though I was late to apply for the Commonwealth Games accreditation, the African title is enough as I focus on the 10,000m in the Diamond League. That race was not easy especially with the Ugandans who had upped their game. I focussed on what two-time World Cross Champion Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor did last year in Kampala, Uganda.”
Ayeko and his compatriots dominated the entire race as the Kenyans and Ethiopians chased breathed down their neck. Kenyans had to use tactics to beat Ayeko at his own game at the finish line to command a 1, 2 podium victory.
Barkach won the race in 30:47 as countryman Julius Kogo sneaked past Ayeko at the finish line to take silver in 30:47 forcing Ayeko to settle for bronze in 30.47.
And at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, a carnival atmosphere greeted the return of the heroic athletes when their plane touched at 2.3pm Monday.
Family and friends braved the afternoon showers to welcome a team that persevered the harsh weather conditions in Chelf to finish top of the medal table with a total of eight medals; three gold, four silver and a bronze medal, ahead of Ethiopia who finished second with five medals (two gold, a silver and two bronze). Uganda and Morocco each won a team bronze medal.