Rio babies inspire hurdling dads to Olympic final

By evelyn watta
Aug 17, 2016
  • Left, Aaron Koech and second left Boniface Mucheru qualified for the men's 400m hurdles finals.(Photo:SNA File)

RIO DE JANEIRO, Kenyan hurdlers and new daddies Boniface Mucheru and Aaron Koech hope that they will have double reasons to celebrate on Thursday as they celebrate the births of their first born children.

Mucheru’s daughter Michelle Wangari was born on Friday just three days before he sailed to the semi finals of the men’s 400m hurdles while Koech’s son Rio Kigen was born soon after his qualifying race.

“My daughter was born last Friday. It’s exciting, its been a good moment for us as hurdlers,” said Mucheru who overcame a bothersome first and seventh hurdle to qualify second, behind American Kerron Clement, the two-time world champion from Osaka and Berlin looking to improve on his silver from Beijing. Clement crossed first in 48.26 seconds.

“My biggest worry was to be locked out of the semi final. For now, I can tell you that there is a medal. I am very confident. I can’t mess first and last hurdle like that to be number two,” the reigning African champion who has been in superb shape said after the 48.26 dash, his season’s best.

He had a slowed start but managed to cover the lost ground with his usual speedy finish and qualify for his second major championship final after the fifth place in Beijing.

The newest dad at the team Kenya camp, Koech admitted that the weight of expectations perceived to be a bad thing, was good pressure for him coupled by the excitement of fatherhood.

‘Baba Rio’ knew the focus would be on him as Nicholas Bett’s brother, but he coolly went over his hurdles meticulously to avoid the misstep that disqualified his sibling in the first round.

“I slowed down slightly as I felt something on my left leg like a pull after the last jump,” he said of his slackened finish after a rather quick 300m .

“But it was good race for me. A dream come true for me,” he added after the personal best of 48.49, behind Thomas Barr of Ireland who timed 48.39.Koech missed last years final where his brother won the gold.

“Now the plan is to ensure we return with a medal like what Bett won back home home. It is not going to be easy but it will be a fight especially against the Jamaican and Irish,” he said. The Jamaican in mind is Annsert Whyte who won his heat in 48.32.

The two training partners hope that they can win the medal and make up for Bett’s absence in the final.

“Bett has had a difficult last two months and though he may have been in shape for the race, he was not psychologically set,” offered his elder brother.

“I told him not to worry. Life is like that up and down. World championships is coming and as the defending champion he already has one foot it,” added Mucheru.

No Kenyan has ever won an Olympic 400m hurdle. The closest it got was Uganda through John Akii-Bua’s 1972 title from Munich.