Henry Kirwa lived up to his billing bagging Kenya’s third gold at the 2016 Paralympics Games after winning the men’s 5,000m T13 final at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday.
This was Kirwa’s second medal in Rio having won bronze in the men’s 1,500m last week.
Kirwa covered the race in 14 minutes 17.32 seconds – a personal best – to claim the top honours ahead of Chentouf El Amin of Morocco who settled for silver in 14:21.04.
Tunisian Aloui Bilel took home bronze in 14:33.33, while Canadian Ouellet Guillaume finished a distant fourth in 14:54 07.
Ouellet had been tipped to win gold but just could not keep up with Kirwa’s searing pace.
For Kirwa, Thursday’s impressive performance was a culmination of hard work after the heartache of London 2012.
Prior to heading to Rio for the Games, Kirwa, who won triple gold medals in Beijing, China in 2008, in 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m, had made reclaiming the titles his top priority and before a fair crowd at the Olympic Stadium yesterday, he held his own all the way to the finish line.
With his victory, Kenya’s medal tally increased to five; three gold and two bronze.
The fresh gold strike moved Kenya up the medal standings to position 30.
Kirwa, despite the enormous pressure that weighed on his shoulders appeared little intimidated by the opposition and stuck to his race tactic of keeping with the pack in the early stages before finding that extra gear when it mattered.
When the bell was sounded for the final lap, the crowded pack of 12 athletes began breaking up as they hit the back straight. It was Kirwa who coasted clear on the home stretch.
The heat became too much to bear for Spaniard Nieves Gustavo and home boy Agripino dos Santos who failed to finish the race.
Kenya’s quest for more medals continues Friday when sprinter Henry Nzungi races in the T12 200m semis.
Nzungi was disqualified for lane infringement in the 400m heats. The T12 200m final will he held on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Nancy Chelagat will line up for the women’s 1,500m T11 semis Friday. Chelagat failed to make her mark in the 200m heats finishing last and will be seeking some form of redemption.