Kenyan athletes Olympics track campaign ended in anti-climax as only Thomas Longosiwa pulled through with the 5 000m bronze as there was no remarkable comeback for Pamela Jelimo in the 800m.
Mohammed Farah’s successful double and Russia’s Mariya Savinova’s dominant 800m win bared the paradigm shift perhaps of Kenyans unrivalled depth and talent, exacerbated by conventional coaching techniques and cluttered leadership, management surrounding Kenyan teams.
The slow pace played into Farah’s hands as he yet again timed his kick in the last 400m after taking over the lead in the last two laps.
Hayle Ibrahimov had looked to speed up the race with Kenyan Isaiah Koech taking the cue as the field crossed the 1 000m point in 2:55.40.
American Lomong Lopez, a Sudanese who moved to the USA from Nairobi had a brief stint at the lead of the crowded pack with Ethiopians Yenew Alamierew and Dejan Gebremeskel, the 2011 World bronze medallist threatening to surge ahead after eight laps but Koech kept pressure with Farah who had run most of the opening laps behind the group hot on their heels.
With three laps left, Farah moved up to third, then second on to Alamirew’s shoulder.He hit the front 700m from home with his training partner American Galen Rupp moved alongside him.
In the last 100m a group of about six including Lagat, Longosiwa, Koech Rupp and Moroccan Abdalaati Iguider threatened to go past but the Somali born runner held forte as he charged down for a historic Olympic 5000m title, the first for his country in 40 years in a slow 13:41.66.
Ethiopian Gebremeskel slowed past a wilting Longosiwa for the silver in 13:41.98 while the Kenyan crossed the line third in 13:42.36.
“Its unbelievable! Two gold medals who would have thought that?” he posed as he tried to come to terms with his golden double.
“I didn’t feel great in the heats but it was a pretty good race,” said Farah who spent most of his pre-Olympic training in Iten, the backyard of Kenyan runners.
“The American guy tried to come past me but I knew I just had to hold on.
These two medals are for my two girls who aren’t born yet, “he added in his reference to his unborn twins.
The Kenyans and Ethiopians were left to rue their chances, as they lost the title like they did the 10 000m yet again to a non African, an event they had won at each of the last Olympic games for the last 36 years.
“We made mistakes, I also made a big mistake,” admitted Gebremeskel.
“I stayed in the pack and struggled to get out. We planned to make the race fast but we didn’t do that. Although we tried at the end it was too late.”
“It was a very slow race which helped Farah. We didn’t have a definite plan with Koech as we waited to see how the race played out,” Longosiwa concurred, relieved with his major career medal after failed attempts at the continental, world and the Beijing games.
“I am happy with the bronze, at least now I can rest in peace. I have not been at peace since I came here. I had this cold fear in my stomach and had sleepless night imagining how the race would play out” added the Kenyan who was kicked out of the junior team in 2006 and arrested on allegations of age cheating.
“Then I was young and naïve and it has made me what I am today.” American Lagat, 38, managed to keep up the pace with the speedy youngsters in fourth place (13:42.99) ahead of Koech(13:42.36).
Russians, Semenya rule 800m
The women 800m shift in the last 50m pricked the hearts of many Kenyans. Pamela Jelimo seemed destined for her title defence when she charged ahead with about 200m remaining, but at the end it turned out to be a disgracing performance for the Kenyans.
She could barely master energy to hang on for the silver or even bronze after Russian World champion Mariya Savinova stormed past in the homestretch for her country’s second gold in the race in a season best of 1:56.19.
South African Caster Semenya who seemed to be out of the medal bracket daringly sprinted past a slowing Jelimo for silver in 1:57.23, her season best and her country’s first women’s track Olympic medal.
Russian Ekaterina Poistogova passed the Beijing champion at the line for bronze in 1:57.53. Jelimo crossed the line fourth in 1:57.59 with Janeth Jepkosgei fading to eighth in 2:00.19.
“I did my best but I don’t know what happened,” admitted Jelimo, barely able to sum up the words to explain the results of a race she had been touted to win. “ At times you force your body but it refuses!”
“I tried all to be on the podium but my body failed. Things are changing this is a new generation, when I looked at the line-up I was the oldest,” the 29 year old Jepkosgei said as she mulls moving up to the 1500m.
It was an equally bad day out in the field for Julius Yego, as he barely broke the 80m mark in three attempts after his second round 77.15.
His first attempt was measured at 72.59 and a final round of 74.08 way behind teenager Keshorn Walcott’s surprise winning throw of 84.58. The reigning world junior champion won the Olympic title with his second attempt.
What a performance but its all in the spirit of the Olympics, as the Minister of Sports Paul Otuoma reasoned.
"If Kenyans came and won all the medals,then there will be no Olympics,"The two gold medals thus far that cannot be swept away by David Rudisha's insurmountable performance.
Evelyn Watta in London
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