Abraham Tarbei won Kenya’s first athletics gold of the 10th All Africa Games as he led a 1-2 finish here on Sunday, a huge relief for the team following an Ethiopian upset in the 3,000 metres steeplechase.
Everlyne Otula was the only Kenyan standing in lawn tennis after securing the only match victory for the country on day one of the competition.
Former world record holder Tarbei won the 5,000m senior men’s (T46 event) race in 14 minutes 0.53 seconds to set a new Games mark.
World record holder Jonah Chesum, who set the 13:14.19 mark at the Kenyan national Paralympics championship this July, took the silver in 14:02.03 and Emong David(14:25.49) of Uganda the bronze.
Birhan Getahun led an Ethiopian clean podium sweep in the 3,000m steeplechase, taking away a race that has traditionally belonged to Kenyans.
Getahun won in 8:17.36 with Roba Gari Chubeta (8:18.42) second and Sisay Koreme Mojo (8:20.72) third.
The best-placed Kenyan was Jairus Kipchoge Birech (8:21.30), who was fourth.
“This is an unbelievable loss for Kenyans, who have dominated this event in the past, but we have to accept it because it is all about competition,” Kenya team manager Kimoni Kisalu said.
The result left the entire stadium in a state of shock as the Mozambican fans, who were expecting a lot from the Kenyan athletes, left in disbelief.
Birech was at a loss regarding what might have gone wrong, only saying: “This is athletics; you win some and lose some. We live to fight another day.”
The Ethiopians appeared very strong from the word go. They stayed ahead of the pack for a good part of the race, only briefly allowing the Kenyans in front but under close check before making the final kick that left their rivals gasping for breath.
It was the same story in the 5,000m women’s race where the Ethiopians posted a 1-2 finish.
Sule Uturg Gedo won in 15:38.70, followed by team mate (15:40.13).
Pauline KoriKwang (15:40.93) gave Kenya the bronze.
Kenyans Joyce Zakari and Grace Kidake easily won their 400m heats to book their semi-finals slots.
The experienced Otula beat Pulane Monyatsi from Zimbabwe 6-4,6-2 in the women’s singles in the second round. Otula was in great shape, taking the game to her opponent with great serves and a combination of hard shots.
Only medal hopeful
In the men’s category, Mombasa Sports Club trio of Fazal Khan, Ismael Changawa and Eric Kibet all went down fighting on day one of the competition.
Khan fell 6-3,6-4 to Theophile Segodo of Botswana while youngster Kibet gave a good account of himself before going down 2-6,6-4, 10-8 to Ethiopia’s Mengesha Zegwe. Changawa lost to to Gabon’s Issa Adutu 2-6, 1-6.
With all the Kenyan men out, Otula remains the only medal hopeful in the singles category after her compatriot, Carolyne Oduor, was beaten.
The doubles events, in which Kenya hopes to perform better, start on Wednesday.