KAMPALA, Kenya grabbed the first gold medal of the inaugural mixed relay event of the World Cross Country Championships at Kololo Independence Grounds on Sunday, the country’s first title in Kampala, Uganda.
Asbel Kiprop, the Beijing Olympic 1500m champion started matters for Kenya and he did not disappoint as abandoned his usual tactics of coming from behind the pack to dictate the pace from the go.
Close on his heels after 400 metres was Ethiopian Welde Tufa in the race that featured two men and two women each covering one lap of 2km.
Kiprop maintained the tempo and left Tufa in his wake, utilizing his lengthy frame and long legs to establish a 10 metre lead.
Kiprop handed the baton first to Winfred Nzisa in 5:19 who maintained the solid run to establish a commanding 20 metre gap over Bone Cheluke who was Ethiopia’s second runner.
Nsiza closed out her two kilometers in 11:26 ahead of Cheluke in 11:41. Bernard Koros who started with a solid burst of pace before slowing down at the 1km mark. He then passed the baton to Beatrice Chepkoech in 16:24.
Chepkoech, a traditional steeplechase runner over 2000 and 3000 metres had a 20 metre lead over Genzebe Dibaba in what was set to be a test of Chepkoech’s resilience.
Kiprop set the pace
Dibaba, a two time cross country junior world champion and a world record holder in the 1500m used her experience to narrow the gap to 10 metres with 700 meters to go.
Fatigue hit Nzisa in the final 100 metres but she had done enough to hold off Dibaba’s surge nd open the medal chase for the Kenyans.
Kiprop, the three-times world champion said it was down to team strategy that gave them the edge over the Ethiopians.
“It was a tough course to run on but I am happy with the win. It was also difficult to come back after 10 years and run with some of the established athletes in this field.
I decided to start first so that I could stretch the field enough and give my team an advantage and it worked. We knew that Ethiopia had Dibaba in their team who is a strong runner and that is why our coaches advised us to create that gap,” Kiprop said.
“It is not my first time to run the cross country so I had to use my previous experience to help me navigate the course. We are glad to win this first gold for Kenya,” Nzisa said of the performance.
“We could have won gold but our first two runners were a bit slow and left me with a big gap to cover. However, I am happy with the silver medal,” Dibaba said.
Results (Mixed Relay) 1.Kenya (Asbel Kiprop, Winfred Nzisa, Bernard Kipkorir, Beatrice Chepkoech)-22.22 2. Ethiopia (Welde Tufa, Bona Cheluke, Yomif Kejelcha, Genzebe Dibaba)-22.30 3. Turkey (Aras Kaya, Meryem Akdag, Ali Kaya, Yesemin Can)-22.37