It was simply a grand moment in sports! Three runners racing away in the heat and humidity of Daegu just about 7km from world honours, a defining point in the women’s marathon… In a flash just a few meters down the line things go awfully wrong for the Kenyan team-at the water point as Edna Kiplagat trips and falls off Sharon Cherop …
For a moment it appeared like hopes shattered and dreams killed and a setback to their game plan for a clean sweep…but Cherop quickly went back, to wait for her teammate as Priscah Jeptoo sought to find if the fall had destabilised the leader.
“I was so annoyed because it was not my fault,” Cherop admitted . “But when I saw her down I had to slow down and wait for her.”
“ I raged with bitterness…I went over to her to find out if she could continue,”cuts in Jeptoo describing the act of fair play which probably played a role in Kenya’s historic win of the opening race of the 13th edition of the World championships.
“She told us to give her a few minutes to recover and after one kilometre she was even stronger than before the fall.Then I knew she would win the Gold.”
“I quickly got up and I tried to pick up momentum. After one kilometre I felt stronger,” recalled the soft spoken World champion of her scare at the second last water station in what was a defining moment of the race as the 31 year old ran her best race in the last stretch of the race.
“The last 5km stretch was the fastest of the race. The first kilometres was slow because the humidity slowed us down yet I wanted to move faster,”said Kiplagat winner of last year’s New York and Los Angeles marathons.
Everything about Kiplagat’s performance on Saturday in only her fourth career marathon displayed confidence, determinatin and her unrivalled strength of character as she quickly regained the lead, surged forward and never looked back leaving her colleagues behind to win the gold in 2:28.43, seven seconds ahead of Jeptoo (2:29.00) and Cherop who had looked to be struggling for most of the race picked up bronze in a personal best of 2:29.14.
Reigning commonwealth Games champion Irene Kosgei faded to 13th but managed a season best of 2:31.29after suffering yet another fall like at the halfway point, just like she did in India last year.
“I am very happy because I didn’t know I was going to win.I thought if I run the way I did in my last marathon, I would have a chance,” said the mother of two Carlos, 8 and Wendy,5, who stayed at her home and training base in Iten as she journeyed with her husband-cum- coach, Gilbert Koech, in search of World honours.
“Before the race I told her to run like she had never run in life, and she did even better than the LA and New York races,” recalled Koech as he clung on to the team trophy the team won ahead of Ethiopia who took an early lead through Buzunesh Bekele but faded by the tracks to finish fifth in 2:22.06.
The race started off slowly despite cool conditions but soaring humidity with a leading pack of about 20 runners breaking off in the preliminary by the 10km as Bekele and compatriot Atsede Baysa threatening with an early surge. The Kenyans however derailed their plans with Jeptoo holding on for the next 1km.
“I knew the second part would be faster after I saw Edna going in front as she is very strong and experienced.At this point we had made a silent decision to fight for the country,” said Jeptoo describing the instant where the trio including Bekele and Baysa sprinted forward before the medalists unleashed team tactics to scuttle the Ethiopians yet again with ease. Not even whe ‘fall of grace’ could deter the Kenyans.
“Knowing Edna even after she fell I knew she would still fight to win a medal, it was the falling that became the turning point and a moment of true sportmanship!” said her American manager Brendan Reilly from Boulder, Colorado where Kiplagat spends part of her training time.
A handful of Kenyans living in Korea led by the Ambassador Ngovi Kitau were at the finish line to cheer the trio and jointly celebrate momentous feat several miles away from home.
“Fantastic achievement. It reminds me of Seoul. This is a just the beginning of what will happen here in Daegu,” remarked a thrilled Benson Kamari waving a miniature Kenyan flag and a branded Kenyan shirt.
For now Kiplagat revers in her new found glory as she considers whether she will defend her New York title when she resumed training early next month. She now lies second in the 2010-2011 World Marathon Major series(60 points) standings behind Russian Lillya Shobukhova(65).
|1||Edna Ngeringwony Kiplagat||KEN||2:28:43||.|
|3||Sharon Jemutai Cherop||KEN||2:29:14||(SB)|
|13||Irene Jerotich Kosgei||KEN||2:31:29||(SB)|