Samuel Muchai won gold for Kenya in the T11 men’s 5,000m on Thursday as the Rio Paralympic Games started at the Olympic Stadium.
Muchai produced an astonishing performance on the track to claim gold in 15.16.11, while compatriot Wilson Bii settled for bronze in 15.22.06, behind Brazilian Santos who clinched silver in 15:17.35.
Another Kenyan in the race Erick Sang finished a distance ninth. Muchai was six seconds shy of breaking Henry Wanyoike’s Games record of 15.11.07 set in Athens, Greece, in 2004.
The Kenyan trio began the race in an impressive style with Sang leading the pack and they maintained the formation through the first three laps.
Santos, who had kept track of the Kenyans, hit the front with two and a half laps to go.
As the leading pack approached the last bend, it became evident that the battle for gold would be between Muchai and Santos – the latter cheered on by a partisan home crowd on the terraces – but the Kenyan dug deep to claim the top honours.
Muchai, led by his guide runner James Boit, quickly dashed for the Kenyan flag as Bii joined in the celebrations, as they registered Kenya’s first medals of the Paralympics.
“I’m proud and the athletes are happy. They have opened our medal haul and we expect more to come,” the Kenya National Paralympic Committee chairperson Agnes Oluoch said after the race.
Sprinter Henry Nzungi qualified for the semi-final of the 400m that was set for today at dawn after winning his heat in 49 .85 seconds.
However, Kenya’s medal hopes in the women’s 1,500 metres crashed at the first hurdle after Nelly Nasimiyu failed to qualify from the heats.
In the fast-paced race, Nasimiyu found the going tough, clocking 4 minutes 54 seconds 70 to finish fifth.