By Justin Lagat ( Aug. 7, 2017)
In the first two days of the championships, two long distance finals were done; the men and women 10,000m events. But despite being known as a powerhouse in long distance running, Kenya could only manage to win bronze medals at each event. Kenyan fans can now have the courage to look at the medal table after Geoffrey Kirui became the first Kenyan to win a gold medal and ensure the nation's national anthem is sung for the first time in London.
Before the men's marathon event, there were the men's 3000m steeplechase heats. Looking at the way that the Kenyan men made it to the finals, the confidence of Kenyans to dominate in the finals as usual is no longer there. Only Conseslus Kipruto managed to qualify automatically to the finals while Ezekiel Kemboi and Jarius Birech had to wait for fastest losers to be added to the field.
The three athletes who have always threatened Kenya's dominance in the event were there and all exhibited great form as they sailed to the finals. USA' Evan Jager, Morocco's Soufiane Elbakkali and France's Mahiedine Mekhissi all appeared to have run comfortably. Kenyans have never had such a formidable competition like this in the recent past and it will be interesting to see how the finals will unfold.
Geoffrey Kirui's win in the men's marathon event came as a great relief to the Kenyan fans as everything else was pointing towards a poor outing for the Kenyan athletes in the world championships. This win could serve to raise the morale in the camp and many medals are definitely going to follow this.
Kirui ran a smart race, not letting himself be dragged into an early fast pace by Ethiopia's Tamirat Tola after the competition at the front was clearly between the two of them. Kirui had allowed Tola to open up some gap, but kept it at a safe distance before closing it slowly and easing away in the last stages of the race. He went ahead to win the race in a seasonal best time of 2:08.27. The clearly exhausted Tola finished second in 2:09:49 managing to cross the line just before Tanzania's Alphonce Simbu, who finished two seconds behind him, could gain on him.
In the women's marathon, the real battle did not unfold until within the last five kilometers when Rose Chelimo of Bahrain made a decisive move at the front and a pack of fourteen athletes who had stuck together for almost the entire race began to disintegrate and follow in a single file.
Early in the race, Catarina Ribeiro of Portugal had moved to the front and led at a distance in an effort to break away from the rest of the field. However, it proved not to work for her as she soon dropped out of the race. 38 year old, Alyson Dixon of Great Britain could have learned from that, but she didn't. She decided to gamble by making an early break too. Despite the huge support she received from the home fans that had lined the streets, she was later overtaken and finished in 18th position.
At some point in the climax of the race, Kenya's Edna Kiplagat had pulled up behind Chelimo, overtook her and created a gap of about ten meters before Chelimo fought back again to regain the lead with about 400m to the finish of the race. Chelimo went on to win the gold medal in 2:27:11 while Kiplagat won silver in 2:27:18 within the same second with USA's Amy Cragg who had run strongly in the last 200m to overtake Flomena Daniel and close the gap between her and Kiplagat.