“I have an hamstring injury!” Asbel Kiprop admitted Tuesday evening, confirming earlier reports that there could be more injured runners within the Kenyan team in London.
“I picked it on the last day of training in Nairobi when we had a sprint session," the 2008 Olympic champion said in defense of his 12th position in 3:43.83, way behind the Algerian winner Taoufik Makhloufi in a arace he was widely expected to win.
“I ran because I made the final and also to support my teammates who were all aware of the injury (including the coaches),” he continued, as he attempted to rationalize Kenyans dismal run in the 1500m, with Silas Kiplagat, finishing 7th in 3:36.19 and Nixon Chepseba, 11th(3:39.04).
“When I realised that I was all alone, I decided to go in front,”Chepseba hinted of the bungled team tactic, if any at all, considering the track rivalry between Kiplagat and Kiprop.
“Am disappointed because an event like this only comes once in four years and who knows if you will make the next one,” he added.
It was a Kenyan race from the start but the North Africans overturned the tables on their East African rivals.
Ali Belal Mansoor formerly John Yego now racing for Qatar had a go at the lead pack through the first 400m, which he crossed in 58.30.
Chepseba, cautious after a near fall in the heats that almost ruined his Olympics, then charged through the 800m mark in a slow 1:58.63 a pace that undoubtedly favoured the quick Algerian finisher, who for most of the race chose to trail the leaders alongside Abdalaati Igueider, the Moroccan bronze winner in 3:35.13 behind American Leonel Manzano(3:34.79).
All through it was clear that Kiprop, the World champion from Daegu was struggling to stay in the race despite a confident 3:42.92 run in the semi final.
Kiplagat briefly rekindled hope of a medal when he led with about 300m,before Malkhloufi unleashed his flawless surge for the finish line, with a crowded field charging behind him.
Mansoor faded to 10th(3:37.98) with Ilham Ozbilen, now Turkish but formerly William Tanui finishing 8th (3:36.72).
The Algerian who was reinstated after an earlier disqualification following the heats of the 800m on Monday was thrilled at his win, the country’s first medal in London and only the second 1500m Olympic gold.
“I was suffering from a knee injury and was told that racing and competing might be a bit dangerous for me by my doctors after the 800m,”he explained of his controversial disqualification and subsequent reinstatement.
"It was not easy to win the gold,” he replied when probed about his impressive finish albeit with an injured knee.
"Of course any person, who runs and races, forgets about injuries and pains and I forgot about all that but I'm still hurting."
“I don’t know what happened could be the weather,” Kiplagat battled to explain if the cool weather conditions (17 degrees) could have contributed to crushing out of a race Kenyans had dominated prior to the games.
“We had it all planned out but it went wrong, very wrong!”he admitted.
An injury-plagued team Kenya, ‘unfavourable weather conditions’, throw in a tensed mood at the games villages exacerbated by a simmering row between Athletics Kenya and National Olympics Committee of Kenya over the aborted Bristol training camp…
Is there any hope for a turn around for team Kenya over the last five days of athletics competition?
Oh yeah we pray our cherished runners can rise above these ‘trials’!
It is not all gloom,Sally Kipyego, silver medalist in 10000 Vivian Cheruiyot bronze winner in and Viola Kibiwott will be racing in the 5 000m final on Friday.
Kibiwott was third in 14:59.31 from heat one behind a charged Ethiopian pair of Tirunesh Dibaba(14:58.48) and Meseret Defar(14:58.70). The other Ethiopian in the race Gelete Burka (15:01.44) led Cheruiyot who timed 15:01.54 and Kipyego(15:01.87) from their qualifying round.
Evelyn Watta in London
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