IN ASABA, NIGERIA
World 5,000 metres champion Hellen Obiri now looks forward to adding Continental Cup accolades to her rich collection after tucking in the African title over the distance at the Stephen Keshi Stadium here on Thursday.
Kenya also landed slots in the 400m final with Jared Momanyi and Alphas Kishoyan coming through from their semi-finals with a complete field of three also lining up in Friday’s 800m final after Ferguson Rotich, Emmanuel Korir and Jonathan Kitilit all won their heats.
Further medals are expected in Friday’s finals of the women’s 1,500m and men’s steeplechase with world and Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto tipped for gold in the latter.
It was mind games all through in the 4pm (6pm Kenyan time) 5,000m women’s final Thursday which Kenya Defence Forces star Obiri endured with finesse, kicking with three laps to go with her Ethiopian rivals failing to respond as Kenya secured its first medal at these championships that have been watered down by incompetent preparations.
The experienced Senbere Teferi, an employee of Ethiopia’s Federal Prisons, and rising star Meskerem Mamo of the Oromiya Region Athletics Club settled for silver and bronze, respectively.
Laikipia Air Base soldier Obiri’s winning time was 15 minutes, 47.18 seconds, with the Ethiopians clocking 15:54.48 and 15:57.38 respectively.
Kenya’s other athletes in the final, Lilian Kasait (16:04.51) and Loice Chemning (16:25.78) settled for fourth and fifth place.
“I felt my body was feeling good and that’s why I decided to kick early, also because I didn’t know how the Ethiopians would react,” Obiri said, adding that she warned Kasait and Chemning not to go with her pace.
“I told them not to follow my kick and just watch to see how the Ethiopians will respond because they are still a bit inexperienced and I was in much better shape.”
The Confederation of African Athletics is picking the continent’s team from these championships for the Continental Cup competition between the continents which will be held in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on September 8 and 9.
“I now have like three weeks to prepare for the Continental Cup where I will run in the 3,000 metres which will be more of speed, but I’m feeling good,” Obiri said.
Obiri's gold was Kenya's first medal at the championships which started on Wednesday with the men's 10,000m final where Ethiopia’s Jemal Yimer kicked with 300 metres to go and opened up a 50-metre gap from his compatriot, silver medallist Andumalak Belihu of Sidama Buna Athletics Club in Ethiopia’s southern region, to win in 29 minutes, 08.01 seconds.
Uganda’s Timothy Toroitich (29:11.87) took bronze as Kenya’s Vincent Rono (29:14.52) was fourth after pulling a muscle in the sprint finish. Other Kenyans Kipsang Temoi (29:29.54) finished fifth with Josephat Bett struggling at seventh in 30:13.22.
KENYAN TRIO THROUGH
In the 800m, Rotich, a former Diamond League champion over the two laps, clocked 1:48.19 in winning the opening heat with Kitilit, sixth (1:46.12) at the Commonwealth Games in April, clocking 1:46.55 to win the second heat.
US-based Korir, the fastest man this year with a stunning 1:42.05, a personal best clocked at last month’s IAAF London Diamond League meeting, won the final heat in 1:46.92.
“It’s been a long journey but I’m glad we have all made it through and I wanna see a Kenya 1-2-3 in the final, hopefully,” Korir of the University of Texas El Paso (Utep) said.
Korir’s coach at Utep, Kenyan 800m legend Paul Ereng, played down the huge expectations on Korir who has been touted as heir to world record holder David Rudisha’s throne.
“Korir is still a baby in athletics and has lots of work to do. But he’s got it. I mean, he’s the only guy who can run fast in both the 400m and 800m, probably since Cuba’s Juantorena,” said 1988 Olympic champion Ereng in reference to the great Cuban Alberto Juantorena who won both the 400m and 800m titles at the 1976 Olympics, the only person to achieve the feat.
Korir’s 400m PB is 44.21 seconds clocked in Nairobi in June during the trials where he was basically chasing speed.
Earlier, favourites in the men’s and women’s 100 metres, South Africa’s Akani Simbine and Cote d’Ivoire’s Gonezie-Marie Ta Lou won the short sprints to bag tickets to represent Africa at the Continental Cup in Ostrava.
Running from lane one, “drama queen” Ta Lou put aside pre-competition tantrums to win the race in 11.15 seconds with Ghana’s Janet Amposah (11.54) taking silver and Nigeria’s Joy Udo-Gabriel (11.58) bronze.
Ta Lou, the fastest woman in the world so far this year, had earlier threatened to withdraw from the competition, throwing tantrums at the Asaba airport after her baggage was delayed on Tuesday.
Simbine’s winning time was 10.25 seconds with Cote d’Ivoire’s Gueu Arthur Cisse (10.33) and South Africa’s Simon Magakwe (10.35) completing the podium places.
5,000m final results:
1. Hellen Obiri (Kenya) 15:47.18
2. Senbere Teferi (Ethiopia) 15:54.48
3. Meskerem Mamo (Ethiopia) 15:57.38
4. Hawi Feysa Gejia (Ethiopia) 15:59.23
5. Lilian Kasait (Kenya) 16:04.51
6. Loice Chemning (Eritrea) 16:25.78
7. Dolchi Kbreab (Eritrea) 16:46.94
8. Olowora Aminat (Nigeria) 17:29.64