Kenya picked up two gold medals on the third day of competition at the African Athletics Championships in the 3000m men’s steeplechase and the women’s 20km walk and had another grabbed away from walker David Kimutai in the men’s 20km walk.
Abel Mutai warmed up for his Olympic race in London with an overriding run in men’s steeplechase on Friday at the Charles De Galle stadium.
Kenya now lies second in the medal standings with four gold, six silver and three bronze, behind leaders South Africa who have the same number of Gold, but a higher number of silver medals at Seven.
Gold and silver for Mutai,Kipkemboi in Steeplechase
A week after qualifying for the Olympics Mutai started as the favourite in the men’s steeplechase and he did not disappoint.
Mutai, the Kenyan champion, took over the lead after five laps which Ugandans Benjamin Kiplagat and Jacob Araptany had paced through.
Mutai, the World Youth champion, charged home in 8:16.05 with compatriot Kipkemboi behind him for the silver in 8:16.96. Ugandan Benjamin Kiplagat took the bronze, his first career medal in 8:18.73.
“This was a good race and good test for London,where I can pull a surprise,” said Mutai.
“At the last bend I had to check and tell Kipkemboi to rush up before waving at the Kenyan fans as I crossed the line.”
He will join Brimin Kipruto, the Bejing champion and World champion Ezekiel Kemboi at the team camp at the Moi International sports centre Kasarani, on his return home.
Kimutai relegated to silver in 20km walk, Wanjiru retains title
Kimutai had presumably crossed the line first in the men’s 20km walk but to his surprise the Gold medal was awarded to Hedi Taraaoui after a successful post-race appeal.
Taraaou was seemingly leading the walk but was mistakenly misled to repeat a loop by the race stewards, as the rest of the field led by Kimutai proceeded through the finish in the stadium.
Kimutai, 41, had to settle for his third continental silver while Algerian Ameur Mohammed settled for bronze in the untimed event as the timings for all the six of the 10 starters were nullified due to the mix-up.
“I was on the course and I don’t think it was fair to assume that the Tunisian would have won the event. Kimutai was way ahead,” argued Kenya’s head coach John Mwithiga, as the team technical officials made also field an appeal disputing the relegation.
Grace Wanjiru’s quest of hitting an Olympic qualification time were thwarted by the scorching, humid conditions and a weak field of only six walkers.
She however managed to bag her fourth African title in 1:40.53 with Tunisian Lali Olfa way off behind in 1:46.17 for the silver. Aynalemu Eshetu of Ethiopia took the bronze(1:49.45).
Anthony Chemut won his first major championship medal a silver in the 800m, after a shattering 400m pace in 49.85. Chemut and teammate Cornelius Kiplagat were poised to win the gold and silver but a bungled team tactic gifted Algerian Taoufik Makhloufi the gold medal.
“We had agreed that I pace the field then Kiplagat goes for the gold. But that plan clearly didn’t work as we both ran out of steam,” conceded Chemut, barely recovered from his third place finish in the Kenyan Olympic trials won by David Rudisha last weekend.
Makhloufi who was breathing down their necks for most of the second lap surprised them in the home stretch.
The North African went past Kiplagat at the last bend, as Chemut struggled for the lead before running out of steam in the last 50m.
Makhloufi comfortably crossed the line in 1:43.88, arguably his biggest career victory as Chemut timed at 1:44.53 and Kiplagat way off in 1:45.09.
The women’s 1500m was yet another case of going too fast for Margaret Wangari, second at the Olympic trials, and Mary Kuria.
Wangari paced the runners through the first two laps in a slow 2:10.48 before Kuria surged ahead at the bell hungry for the gold medal, anxiously glancing over her shoulders.
But she had no response to Morocco’s Rabab Arafi’s burst in the last 150m as she sped away for victory in an impressive 4:05.80 anew championship record and her first major career win.
Kuria and Wangari howver both ran within the old mark set by Gelete Burka in Addis Ababa 2008 of 4:08.25. Kuria(4:06.22) won silver while Wangari warmed up for the Olympics with bronze in 4:06.50.
20-year-old Bernard Mucheru will be traveling to Bristol for the pre-Olympic Kenyan camp after earning qualification in the men’s 400m Hurdles where he won the bronze medal in 49.45 seconds.
Nigerian Amechi Morton was fastest off the blocks and went head to head with the defending champion LJ Van Zyl running in the inner most lane.
But as the field paced off to the halfway point Van Zyl slowed back as Mozambican Kurt Cuto who was running next to Mucheru in lane four took a nasty fall that almost destabilised the Kenyan.
Mucheru, the World Youth finalist from Canada, overcame the bump chasing down Mamadou Kasse Hanne beat him just on the line for silver in 49.39 behind the Nigerian who timed 49.32.
Vincent Mumo, the lone Kenyan in the final of the men’s 400m also improved his season best to 46.13 in his sixth place ranking behind the winner Isaac Makwala(45.25) of Botswana and Oscar Pistorius,of South Africa(45.52), Africa’s first ever medal by a Double amputee runner .
Joyce Sakari ran a personal best of 52.28 in the women’s 400m final won by World champion Amantle Monsho in a new championship mark of 49.54. Though impressive, the time was not enough to earn Sakari a dream Olympic qualification, as the time was way off the 51.50 mark.
Linda Oseso managed fifth in the women’s hammer throw with her third attempt of 58.07m which saw Senegalese Amy Sene retain her title in 65.55m.