Kenyans once again ruled the world of athletics, setting world records in men’s marathon and women’s half marathon races besides retaining their title at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland in August.
However, that performance was blighted by cases of doping involving 26 athletes in the last two years, including a shocking report involving two-time Boston and Chicago Marathon champion Rita Jeptoo who turned positive for banned substances.
Kenya made two new important strides setting two new world records in both men and women’s 4x1,500m races at the inaugural World Relays Championships in Bahamas in May.
Florence Kiplagat broke the world half marathon record by a significant margin at the Barcelona Half Marathon in February 2014, running 1 hour,05:12min to beat Mary Keitany’s old mark by 38 seconds. Kiplagat also took the world record for the 20 km distance as well with a time of 1:01:56.
Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto ran his way to a world marathon record of 2:02:57 at the Berlin Marathon on September 28. Kimetto outclassed compatriot Emmanuel Mutai (2:03:13) who also dipped below the previous best mark.
SMASHED WORLD RECORD
Kimetto shaved a whopping 26 seconds off Wilson Kipsang’s previous world record set on the same course last year.
At Nassau, Kenya’s performance in the inaugural relay was punctuated with three gold medals and two World records in the women and men’s 4x 1,500m where World champions Mercy Cherono and Asbel Kiprop anchored their respective teams to glory.
(READ: Record-breaking night for Kenya)
Kenya established a world record of 14:22.22 in the men’s 4x1,500m final, as Kiprop, Silas Kiplagat and James Magut turned back challenges from Ethiopia and the USA before simply striding away from everyone else in history. They lowered the record by 14 seconds.
Kenyan women’s 4x1,500m team of Cherono, Faith Kipyegon, Irene Jelagat and Hellen Obiri improved the world record by more than half a minute to 16:33.58. The previous world best of 17:05.72 had been set by another Kenyan team in April.
The Kenyan quartet of Ferguson Rotich, Sammy Kirongo, Job Koech Kinyor and Alfred Kipketer made an obvious attempt at the world record, which has stood at 7:02.43 to another Kenyan squad since 2006, but their gun-to-tape run yielded 7:08.40.
World champion Eunice Sum, Sylivia Chesebe, and Janeth Jepkosgei ran a national record of 8:04.28 but still lost to USA team that clocked 8:01.58.
Although medals were elusive in the shorter relays, the quartet of Stephen Barasa, Carvin Nkanata, Tony Chirchir and Walter Moenga proved their worth, setting a new national record of 1:22.35 with a fifth place finish in an event that went to the Jamaican team in a World Record time of 1:18.63.
Athletics once again remained as Kenya’s major medals provider at 20th edition of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, what with the country retaining their titles from the previous edition with 23 medals (10 gold, 10 silver and three bronze).
Kenyan women retained all the titles previously won in 2010 Delhi Games, collecting six gold, four silver and two bronze medals with historic sweeps in 10,000m and 3,000m steeplechase. Kenya had won athletics title in Delhi with 11 gold, 10 silver and eight bronze.
Quite significant was Julius Yego’s history blitz in men’s javelin. After winning the 2011 All Africa Games and 2012 Africa titles to finish 12th at the 2012 Olympics and fourth at the 2013 World Championships, the phenomenal ‘Youtube man’ won the country its first gold in field events at the Club Games.
(READ: Yego spears and pens history)
Interestingly, it’s at the 2010 Delhi Games where Yego made his international debut, finishing seventh and not even a groin injury in training at Glasgow would deter the 25-year-old police officer from making history.
The men’s dismal performance in long distance races and the general lacklustre outing by sprinters across the board was of great concern.
Caleb Mwangangi reclaimed the 5,000m title from Uganda’s Moses Kipsiro but their bid to take the 10,000m from the Ugandan came a cropper when Emmanuel Bett settled for silver.
Kenya lost its men’s marathon crown to Michael Shelley from Australia as Stephen Chemlany got silver. Kenya lost both the 800m and 400m titles. Nijel Amos from Botswana snatched the 800m gold, leaving his role model, Olympic and World Record holder David Rudisha, to take silver.
The 400m defending champion Mark Mutai lost in the preliminaries as men’s 4x400m team that won silver in Delhi got disqualified in the semi-finals.
Africa champion Joyce Chepkirui claimed her maiden global title, stunning favourites Florence Kiplagat and Emily Chebet to win women’s 10,000m title as the Kenyan girls swept the podium for the first over the distance.
Former World junior champion Purity Kirui, 2010 Delhi champion Milcah Chemos and Joan Kipkemoi write history with Kenya’s first sweep in women’s 3000m steeplechase.
World 1,500m bronze medallist Hellen Obiri might have set new times in women’s metric mile race in the semi-finals of 4:04.43 it’s the 2012 World junior 1,500m champion Faith Chepng’etich, who eventually claimed the title.
Rita Jeptoo’s fate was sealed after her “B” sample urine test corroborated her “A” sample that tested positive for prohibited substance Erythropoietin in an out-of-competition test in Eldoret on September 24, 2014.
It happened just days before the New York Marathon race that was due for November 2 where Jeptoo was to collect a share of the Sh90 million (US$1m) World Marathon Majors Series jackpot.
Jeptoo had made history as the first person to win four consecutive World Marathon Majors Series when she defended her Boston and Chicago Marathon titles.
Jeptoo expects a two-year ban in January. She is the first top Kenyan athlete to fail a dope test since Matthew Kisorio two years ago. Kisorio completed his two-year ban in July this year.
Both athletes are under Federico Rosa and Claudio Berardelli’s stable. Deputy President William Ruto has since read the riot act to athletics officials, saying: “We have natural talent and it should not be corrupted by people looking for short cuts... it is my hope that those behind the doping problem are reined in as early as now.”
Jeptoo’s failed drug test and an expose by German television channel ARD on drug abuse by Russian and Kenyans athletes and the subsequent reports linking it to a cover-up by IAAF have sent things spinning at Athletics Kenya.
The German documentary alleged that 150 athletes, among them 25 Kenyans, had suspicious blood values and were not subjected to proper targeted testing afterwards.
Nevertheless, Kipsang, who won his third consecutive London Marathon in April in a course record time of 2:04.27, would follow up with another victory at the New York City Marathon in 2:10:59 to claim the World Marathon Major Series. Mary Keitany, who was making a comeback from maternity break won women’s NYC race.
Two times world marathon champion Edna Kiplagat won the London Marathon in 2:20:21 where Florence Kiplagat finished in second place in 2:20:24.
Eliud Kipchoge pulled away over the last two miles for his first major marathon victory in Chicago, finishing in 2:04:11 as fellow countrymen Sammy Kitwara 2:04:28 and Dickson Chumba 2:04:32 came in second and third.
Kenya finished second behind United States of America during the World Junior Championships held July in Eugene, Oregon. They won four gold, five silver and seven bronze medals.
Alfred Kipketer won gold in 800m with Jonathan Kiplimo Sawe, Barnabas Kipyego going for victories in 1,500m and 3,000m steeplechase. The only victory in women came in 800m by Margaret Nyairera Wambui.
Just like in 2011 and 2012, Kenyan made a clean sweep of all the titles at the Third African Cross-country Championships in Kampala, Uganda in March.
World junior cross-country silver medallist Leonard Barsoton led a Kenyan 1-4 sweep in senior men’s 12km race as reigning world junior cross-country champion Faith Kipyegon achieved a similar feat in the senior women’s 8km race.
African junior 5000m champion Moses Mukono won his second continental title in junior men’s category as Agnes Tirop won in the women’s category.