Die-hard athletics fans in Eldoret town Sunday thronged various social joints to follow Kenya’s performance at the World Cross country Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
After attending the Easter Sunday mass service in various churches in Eldoret, many were eager to catch up with the proceedings in the event, given that most athletes in Team Kenya that travelled to Poland come from the region.
But there was confusion among fans following uncertainty over the time the event would start as many jostled for space in hotels and restaurants which recorded booming business.
Fans went into a frenzy as world junior 1,500 metres gold medals, Faith Chepng’etich retained the junior women’s 6km title.
Hotel attendants had a difficult time stopping patrons from climbing on chairs and tables to catch a good view of their idols on television screens.
Chepng’etich, 19, pulled a fast one in her race, winning in 17.51 minutes to become only the third woman ever to keep the title after the exploits of Viola Kibiwot (2001-2002) and Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba (2008-2009).
A female attendant at one hotel was heard proudly shouting “wanawake siku hizi tuko juu” (us women are on top of the game these days).”
Then there came the eagerly-awaited moment, the men’s 12km race. There was deafening silence as Kenya’s Japheth Korir and Hosea Mwok Macharinyang started the race against a strong field of Ethiopians and Eritreans.
Many watched with joy as Korir broke away from the leading pack to build a gap of 20 metres between himself and the chasing duo of Ethiopia’s Imane Merga and Eritrea’s Teklomariam Medhin.
Korir sprinted to glory, followed by Merga as fans contentedly walked home.
But Ethiopia’s Hagos Gebrhiwet confirmed his status as the favourite to take the junior men’s title with a wonderfully assured and mature run, hitting the front with 500m to go before winning his first major international championship medal.
It was the first gold medal of what could be, and should be, a star-studded career.
Still just 18, Gebrhiwet clocked a World junior indoor 3000m record of 7:32.87 in Boston at the start of last month. He also ran a World junior 5000m record of 12:47.53 at the Samsung Diamond League meeting in Paris last summer before going on to make the London 2012 Olympic Games final over the same distance.