Teenager Hyvin Jepkemoi running in her first ever competitive steeplechase race saved Kenya the blushes with a thrilling sprint in the home stretch as she snatched the Gold medal in the women’s 3000m steeplechase at the All African Games in Maputo.
Jepkemoi a 5000m speciality’s decision to double at the games paid off as she ruined the party for Ethiopia who were looking for another sweep of the medals after turning the tables on the men’s steeplechase on saturday.
The Kenyan fourth in the women’s 5000m and her compatriot Lydia Chepkurus opted to trail the Ethiopian pair of Hiwot Yimer and Birtukan Adamy through the barrier and water race.
Yimer seemed to have the race in her hands when she surged forward with about 300m to go with Jepkemoi hot on her heels,then destined for silver.
The young Kenyan released a powerful kick on the homestretch to beat Yimer just on the line as she timed at 10:00.50 with the Ethiopian settling for silver in 10:00.57.
Adamu clinched the bronze in 10:02.22 with Chepkurus placing fourth in 10:03.69. “I can’t believe it, Gold in a race I didn’t even train for,”said Jepkemoi,19, clearly surprised by her triumph in only her second race for Kenya after saturday’s race at the National stadium in Zimpetu.
“She began to kick at the 300m and I just told myself fight on and I did. I felt strong and I went for sprint just after the bend,”she added of her triumph that ensured Kenya’s successfully retained the title won by Ruth Bosibori in Algiers in 2007.
Chepkurus a 3000m specialist who paces for World Bronze medalist Milcah Chemos was equally impressed by her performance in her debut race for Kenya.”Now I will start training seriously for races.”
Commonwealth games champion Boaz Lalang’s quest for an African title was dented just on the line by Algerian World championships semifinalist Taoufik Makihoufi who pipped him for the Gold in the men’s 800m.
Lalang’ had taken the field through a fast 400m in 52 sec. and was well positioned for the All African Games title. But Makihoufi surprised him with a late surge that caught him unawares as he crossed the line in 1:46.32.
Lalang’ who will also compete in the 1500m placed second in 1:46.40 with countryman Job Kinyor third in 1:46.52. David Mutinda also of Kenya finished sixth in 1:47.81.
“I didn’t think I would win with the three Kenyans in the race,”said Maihoufi who will also compete in the 1500m race.
” I raced with my head and my tactics worked well for me.”
For Lalang’ it was a painful loss after running so well in the qualifying races.
“I am very very disappointed….I didn’t anticipate the late kick, he surprised me and then I dipped too early,”said Lalang’. “I had planned to pace the field and sprint away but it didn’t work.”
Another Commonwealth Games champion Mark Mutai finished third(46.82) in the men’s 400m won by Sudanese Rabah Mohammed in 45.27. Nigerian Tobi Ogunmola clinched the silver in 45.82.
World champion Amantle Montsho of Botswana strode to a comfortable victory in the women’s 400m in 50.87 sec with Senegalese Ami Thiam and Nambian Tjipekapora Herunga picking silver and Bronze in 51.77 and 51.84 respectively.
Kenyan Joy Sakari finished fifth in 52.18. In the Paralympics event Kenyan Jonah Chesum denied Abraham Tarbei his third Gold in the Maputo Games as he won the men’s 1500m T46 in 3:55.46.
Tarbei the double African Games champion finished second in 3:56.53 with Wondye Fikre of Ethiopia 3:57.39.
In the 20km walk Emily Ngii finished fourth in 1:43.28 which was won by Tunisian Trabelsi Chayma in 1:40.35.
Lafi Olfa also Tunisian clinched the silver in 1:41.25 with Ethiopian Aynalem Shefrawe taking the bronze in 1:42.19.
Another Kenyan Grace Thoithi finished sixth of the seven walkers ranked in 1:51.32.
Tunisians also dominated the men’s event which saw Kenyan Julius Sawe finishing fifth in 1:34.36. Sbei Hassan(1:24.53) and Teraou Hedi(1:26.44)both from Tunisia took gold and silver respectively. Gabriel Nego from Cameroon won the bronze in 1:32.08.Kenyan Josephat Sirma was disqualified from the walk race.
Kenya currently lie sixth in the medal standings with Seven Gold, Seven silver and 14 Bronze medals. South Africa top the standings with 57 gold medals followed by Egypt(17)Tunisia (14) Algeria and Nigeria each with 11 Gold.