Rudisha and Kemboi light up a dull year for Kenya at the London Games
Posted Sunday, December 30 2012 at 21:37
- Olympics 800m champion and London Games steeplechase gold medallist saved the country the blushes in a year of tough luck as medals slip away
The 2012 season was an extra ordinary one for Kenyan athletes, the country’s mixed misfortunes at the London Olympic Games in August notwithstanding.
Looking back in the year, good performances by David Rudisha and Ezekiel Kemboi at the Olympics must have calmed the hearts of many Kenyans, besides the magnificent Faith Chepng’etich’s charge at the World Junior Championships and Pamela Jelimo’s inspiring comeback tale.
But Julius Yego’s historic debut in javelin at the London Olympic Games and subsequently at the Diamond League, becoming the first African to reach the Olympics javelin final is a story that captured the world and perhaps after gaining his experience and skills from the YouTube.
Mary Keitany became the first Kenyan woman to clinch the 2011/2012 World Marathon Majors for a share of the US$ 1m in prize money after shinning at the London Marathon where she broke Catherine Ndereba’s national record of two hours,18:47 minutes in a new time of 2:18:37.
Geoffrey Mutai then won the Berlin Marathon in September to uphold Kenyan men’s dominance in the World Marathon Majors as he and Keitany pocketed the US$1m jackpot.
In what was termed “the performance of the Olympics” by former world record holder Sebastian Coe, phenomenal Rudisha broke his own 800m world record, setting a new time of one minute, 40.91 seconds in the final at the Olympic Stadium on August 9.
In the process, Rudisha, who celebrated his 24th birthday on December 17, entered history books as the first reigning 800m world champion to win an Olympic gold medal over the distance.
Rudisha’s affair with world records started when he became youngest athlete to win the IAAF Athlete of the Year Award in 2010 at the age of 21 after shattering Wilson Kipketer’s 13-year-old record of 1:41.09 in a new time of 1:41.09 on August 22. He them lowered it a week later to 1:41.01.
Rudisha’s exploits in London saw Nigel Amos of Botswana and compatriot Timothy Kitum claim silver and bronze respectively. The performance saw Rudisha win the 2012 IAAF Performance of the Year Award at the IAAF Gala in Barcelona, where Nation Media Group sports journalist Elias Makori won World Journalist of the Year Award.
The 2004 Athens Olympics steeplechase champion Ezekiel Kemboi was the first to strike gold for Kenya, before breaking into his trademark dance.
The world champion defied court battles to recapture the 3,000m steeplechase title.
But the overall performance was a big blow for Kenya, who had projected gold medal haul of 10 after harvesting six gold at the 2008 Beijing Games. What even heightened Kenya’s expectations was the country’s impressive showing at the Daegu 2011 World Championships, where Kenya collected seven gold, six silver and four bronze medals.
Kenya would return home from London with only two gold, four silver and five bronze medals, relinquishing the 1,500m men and women titles, women 800m title and men’s marathon title.
Kenya went into the Games as favourites to win both marathon titles, with world champions Abel Kirui and Edna Kiplagat in the team. Besides, Wilson Kipsang (2:03:42-Frankfurt) and Emmanuel Mutai (2:04:40-London) had some of the leading times going into the Olympics.
Keitany’s explosive time of 2:18:37 In London (the third fastest of all time) made her an outright favourite.