Gladys Cherono, a late entrant in the women’s 10000m, led a Kenyan sweep of medals for her second gold at the 18th edition of the African Athletics Championships at the Charles De Galle Stadium in Porto Novo, Benin.
This was only the fifth distance double at the championships and only the second by a Kenyan runner after Justina Chepchirchir’s victory in 1982 in Cairo in 3000 and 5000m.
Spurred more by the desire to boost her teammates Priscah Jepleting and Betsy Saina win their race against the three Ethiopians- Merima Mohammed, Demisse Mihret and Afera Berha, Cherono confirmed her participation just hours after her dominant 5000m victory on Thursday.
Cherono picks 10000m crown after 5000 double
Racing in only her second10000m race, outsprinted Jepleting in the last 100m and sped off to cross the line in 32:41.40, a PB.
Jepleting, a trialist in the 5000 and 10000m Olympics team, settled for silver, her first medal in the championship in 32.45.73, as US-based Saina completed the sweep in 32:48.36.
“I never imagined I could win two gold medals here.But this is the race I should be running,” said Cherono,who first 10000m was at the Kenya Defence championships where she clocked 35.26.
Rwandese Claudette Mukasakindi was the early pace setter taking the field through the 4000m with the pack of the Ethiopians and Kenyans about 80m behind.
Jepleting, a bronze medallist from Osaka, soon managed to close the gap between the chasing pack and the Rwandese as the field went through the 5000m in 16:31.40.
At this point Mihret and Berha fell of the pace, leaving Mohammed at the base of the single file of three. They headed to bell after a slow 1:18.57 in the last lap with Jepleting infront with Saina and Cherono hot on her heels with Mohammed further 100m back.
Saina had a brief before Cherono sprinted past for her second continental medal.
“It was an easy race as we assisted each other. It has been a marathon of races for me this month, but coming here was good as I was not ready for the Olympics,” offered Jepleting.
“This has been a great moment, a bit emotional too for me racing against people I used to watch and admire on TV and now are teammates,” said Saina, 23,the student from Iowa racing in only her second competitive race after the national championships in Nairobi.
Kenyans set for exciting 800m women, 1500m men finals
In one of the days’ exciting races, Teenager Francisine Niyonsaba, from Burundi sprinted away at the gun in the women’s 800m qualifying heat that also had Kenyan champion Eunice Sum and Sylvia Chesebe.
Niyonsaba running in lane two through out, held on to her lead after sprinting through the first 400m in 58.69, as Sum frantically fought to close the gap of about 60m between the pack and the youngster.
The 16-year-old had her mind fixed on the finish and was was caught unawares by Sum running in the inside lane.
She quickly moved into lane one, forcing Sum to retreat as she crossed home first in a PB of 2:02.13.
A bemused Sum was content with second in 2:02.16 with Chesebe in 2:03.14.
“I have never seen anyone racing in lane two from start to finish,” said Sum, who will be racing in the 1500m in London.
“But what amused me was how quickly she moved to lane one, after she saw me attempting to go past from the inner lane,” added Sum, looking to explain the grin on her face as she crossed the line second.
“Lane?” Niyonsaba posed back, when journalists’ sought to know why she chose to run in lane two, exposing her naivety.
“I was just running there. I have raced once before in Kampala before I came here and finished in 2:02.29, “said the secondary school student, rubbing her trimmed hair.
Former World junior champion (2010) Caleb Ndiku, James Magut, a world junior silver medallist and Abednego Chesebe. Magut tied for the fastest time of the qualifiers which Djibouti Souleiman Ayanleh topped at 3:40.79.
Chesebe had won a rather tactical heat in 3:42.20 with Ndiku barely a step back in 3:42.21.
African Bronze medallist Maureen Chelagat will line up in the 400m Hurdles after sailing through as one of the fastest losers from heat two which she ranked thrird in 57.76. South African Janet Lawless won in 56.51.
Sprinters Tony Kichirchir and Millycent Ndoro bolted out of the men and women’s 200m semi finals.
Evelyn Watta, Porto Novo,Benin