They may have lost the ultimate goal which was to win the first track gold in London won by Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba, but Sally Kipyego (silver) and Vivian Cheruiyot (Bronze) went down in history as the first Kenyan medallists at the Olympics in the women’s 10000m race.
In one of the most tactical and intriguing 10 000m races that saw the third Kenyan Joyce Chepkirui succumb to an Achilles tendon injury with about 2000m to go and Werknesh Kidane after attempting a surge, Dibaba blasted the field with a devastating last lap kick that left her challengers gasping for air.
“ I have battled injuries for the past two years, and it is only last week when I felt I was in great shape. Then I knew I could defend my title,”Dibaba the winner in 30:20.75, a world lead, said, clearly pleased and content with her third Olympic gold medal.
“Am very disappointed,”Cheruiyot said dejectedly as her lips tightened fighting back tears, clutching on a Kenyan flag draped over her head.
“I know it is my first Olympic medal in three trials and I have run my personal best but am not satisfied. I don’t know what happened in the last lap. My kick failed. I knew she (Dibaba) has a stronger kick better than Defar,”she recounted of what was her first race against the Ethiopian since her double triumph in Daegu.
The Japanese trio of Mika Yoshikwa,Hitomi Niya and Fukushi Kayoko were the early pace setters opening a 20m gap between them and the pack comprising the race favourites Beleynesh Oljira, Dibaba, Joyce Chepkurui, Kidane and Cheruiyot.
Barely midway through, the chasing pack with Chepkurui at the lead, managed to close the gap to the delight of packs of Kenyan and Ethiopian flag-waving fans at the packed cstadium.
Kipyego the silver medallist from Daegu briefly led the field looking to kickup the pace before Kidane moved forward, a test and show of might between the two long distance powerhouses.
At the 6000m mark the race had been reduced to single file with Kidane, leading Cheruiyot,Dibaba, Chepkurui, Oljira and Kipyego in that order.
By then Chepkurui the African cross country was seemingly struggling to keep pace before she pulled out with six laps to go, probably a victim of her early pace.
Kipyego again threatened a surge, that was quickly cut by Dibaba as Cheruyoit seemingly struggling at fourth.
It’s a lead Dibaba fully exploited pacing the field through 68.10-second last lap sprinting away from a charging Cheruiyot, the double World champion.
There was no stopping Dibaba as she defended her gold from Beijing in overriding style. Kipyego eased past a slowing Cheruiyot for her second major career silver in 30:26.37, a PB.
“My third gold medal is a great achievement. Am waiting for the confirmation from the Ethiopian Federation whether they will allow me to run the 5000m as am strong enough.”
Kipyego was thrilled at winning what she hopes will be the first of her two Olympic medals in London.
“Am beyond words, thrilled, happy and honoured,”she offered excitedly.
“Am going into the 5000m knowing that I already have a medal from the Olympics, knowing I have another chance, a second opportunity a lot of people don’t get second chances like that.” “Am ready for my 500o which am looking forward to doing better than today,”Cheruiyot said.
“We are all at the same level after racing today. I will give my best because it’s my race and am ready for it.”
Dibaba is looking to wrap her season on a high before making the big switch next year.
“Am planning to race my first marathon next year. I want to do all the three races simultaneously before gradually mastering the marathon.”
Kipyego was upbeat of her chances in the shorter race.
“I am looking forward to my 5000m race. For now I will just have a massage, a nice warm bath just to recover in good time for my race.”
All three Kenyans make 1500m final
There was a late scare in the earlier race involving Kenyans Friday evening as Nixon Chepseba was locked out of the semi-finals race after fading to 9th in his heat.
Chepseba seemed to have his qualification well planned as he raced from the front until the last lap when he lost his footing after he was not once but twice tripped by Moroccan Abdalaati Iguider.
A frantic appeal by Athletics Kenya team Manager Joseph Kinyua ensured Chepseba(3:42.29) will race in Sunday’s semifinal a big boost to the team tactic.
“I was boxed in when I slowed down and when I tried to sprint away I was tripped with about 300m to go, luckily I didn’t fall.” New Zealander Nicholas Willis was the top qualifier in 3:40.92.
Chepseba will join the Olympic champion from Beijing Asbel Kiprop who qualified third in 3:36.59 behind Taoufik Makhloufi.
“I never expected the race to be faster the first day but the field was quite strong. I was surprised to see a 3:36 that I was expecting in the final. It’s a fast track, very good tartan,”Kiprop said.
“I really enjoyed my race. I hope the semi-finals will be the same,”Silas Kiplagat added after watching Chepseba’s dramatic race from the ‘mixed zone’ with Kiprop.
Kiplagat the world silver medallist confidently qualified fourth in 3:39.79 behind Mohammed Shaween from Saudi Arabia(3:39.42).
Moroccan Amine Lalou, did not start the race as he was barred from entering Britain after returning positive tests for banned substances.
Kiprop, Masai, Karoki line-up in 10 000m
On Saturday the Kenyan trio of Wilson Kiprop, the fastest man in the 10000m this season, 27:01.96,, Moses Masai and Bidan Karoki up against a charged Mo Farah looking to earn Team Great Britain its first track gold in what should be yet another thrilling 10 000m.
Kenya has not won the Olympic gold in the last 44 years, since Naftali Temu’s gold in Mexico. The Kenyans face defending champion and world record holder Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia and his brother Tariku.
Bekele will be looking to match Dibaba’s success by winning his third 10000m gold medal. Eritrean Zernasey Tadese, the Athen’s bronze medalist is also in this race.
Saturday's schedule(Kenyan time)
12:00100m Preliminary Round
12:05Women's Heptathlon Long Jump
12:20Women's Pole Vault Qualifying Rounds
12:35Men's 400m Round 1
13:35Women's 3000m Steeplechase Round 1
12:30Men's 100m Round 1
19:00Men's 20km Race Walk
21:00Men's 400m Hurdles Semifinals
21:30Women's Discus Throw Final
21:35Women's 100m Semifinals
21:55Men's Long Jump Final
22:05Women's 400m Semifinals
22:35Women's Heptathlon 800m
23:15 Men's 10,000m Final
23:55Women's 100m Final
Evelyn Watta in London
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