Nairobi — The country will continue wondering whatever happened at the London 2012 Olympics after Kenyan distance stars powered to four Samsung Diamond League (SDL) elite circuit titles on Friday night.
Three winners on the night, double world titleholder, Vivian Cheruiyot, Beijing champion, Pamela Jelimo and Commonwealth gold medallist, Silas Kiplagat failed to ascend to the middle of the podium at the Olympics last month.
At least, Paul Kipsiele Koech, a master on the circuit but chronically incapable of commanding a place in the Kenyan team can be excused.
The second SDL final of the season at the Memorial Van Damme meeting in Brussels turned out to be the coronation of a third Diamond Trophy and the $40,000 (Sh3.2m) jackpot that goes with it.
Kiplagat, the second fastest metric miler of the year and seventh finisher in the Olympics got his nation off a bright start in the second race of the track programme when he topped a laden field that featured eight starters from the London final.
With Algerian Olympics winner, Taoufik Makhloufi asking for a brisk pace as he went for the world lead, pacemaker Ismail Kombich obliged and took the runners through 400m in 55.75 with the second pacemaker Benson Seurei crossing 800m in 1:52.25.
Nixon Chepseba, 11th in London and number three in 2012, led at 1200m (2:50.29) with Makhloufi in hot chase.
Beijing champion, Asbel Kiprop, who led the SDL standings on 12 points before the race was in third with Ethiopian challenger, Mekonnen Gebremedhin (on ten) keeping close attention to the lanky world champion.
As they came for the home-straight, it was clear that Makhloufi was out of the picture as Chepseba who was defending the Diamond Trophy, Kiprop, Gebremedhin and upcoming Bethwell Birgen, a World Indoor debutant this year, went for it.
However, none had reckoned with the finishing thrust of the Delhi champion who went on the outside and powered to the finish, arriving arms aloft and unchallenged in 3:31.98.
Gebremedhin (3:32.10), Birgen (3:32.24), American Matt Centrowitz who also finished strongly (3:32.47) and Kiprop (3:32.88) sealed the top-five as the London champ slumped to eighth in 3:33.42.
Watched by her mother who was on the stands, Jelimo who came fourth in London as she surrendered her crown to Russian Mariya Saminova came in seeking a top-two position that would have guaranteed her a first circuit title since she bagged the defunct Golden League in her breakthrough 2008.
Sharing a 2-2 record with the Olympic victor before the race, the favoured pair were upset by rising Burundi sensation, Francine Niyonsaba, who took charge at the bell (57.03) before motoring to 600m in 1:28.34 and as Jelimo, who lost her rival bore down on the leader, she held her nerve to return a huge 1:56.59 personal best for the win.
Jelimo posted 1:57.24 for runners-up to seal the Diamond Trophy ahead of third placed Saminova (1:59.05).
With an unassailable 11 point lead in the men 3000m steeple, all Kipsiele Koech needed to do was to show up for the start to three-peat as the SDL titleholder in the race that featured nine Kenyans as the ‘escort party’.
However, Kipsiele and Co, including the Beijing champion, Brimin Kipruto, London bronze winner, Abel Mutai and World Junior champion, Conseslus Kipruto among others had asked for a fast pace in an attempt to go for Qatari Saif Shaheen’s world record of 7:53.63 ran in 2004 at the same stadium.
That was not to be but in an exciting three-way contest for the victory, Kipruto, the 2007 World Champion, deployed his renowned last-lap kick to perfection to lead a Kenyan 1-6 parade in 8:03.11.
His namesake charged home to finish second in 8:03.70 as Kipsiele stopped the timer at 8:04.01 for third in his Diamond Trophy procession. Mutai (8:13.49) rounded up the top-six behind Jairus Kipchoge and Hillary Yego.
And on the last event on the track roster, Cheruiyot, who won silver (5000m) and bronze (10000m) in London, fittingly applied the icing on her country’s cake when she evoked the formula that saw her given the ‘Pocket Rocket’ moniker following her exploits last year.
Having lost only three races in 2012, the latest to double world junior champion Mercy Cherono in Birmingham a fortnight ago over 3000m, nothing short of a win could have sufficed for the double world champion who was pursuing a hat-trick of SDL honours.
Compatriots Mercy Njoroge, a designated rabbit led through 2000m (5:55.62) before former junior world champion and Beijing Olympics finalist, Veronica Nyaruai (8:57.22/3000m) and London seventh finisher Viola Kibiwott (12:01.88/4000m) led the race until the business end.
This was the cue for Cheruiyot to unleash another devastating last lap, achieved in 59.25 on this occasion, to force down the minor podium places on Cherono (14:47.18) and Kibiwott (14:47.88) as the smile that illuminated the world last season returned when she was handed the bouquet.
In the first final in Zurich last week, Milcah Chemos (women 3000m steeple) and Isaiah Kiplangat (men 3000m/5000m) also scaled to SDL titles as Kenya finished 2012 with six, one shy of last year.
Outside the SDL, Kenyans will be puzzled how despite taking the event’s Trial to America, five athletes who did not travel to the Pre-Fontaine Classic Trial on June 2 nor made the London squad managed to string a top-five finish in the men 10000m.
Unheralded Emmanuel Bett discharged a clinical 26:51.16 world lead as the 2007 World Cross junior champ, Vincent Chepkok became his bridesmaid in 26:51.68, a lifetime best over two-laps.
Third placed Kenneth Kipkemoi, 18, was rewarded with a world junior lead of 26:52.65 for third as Ethiopian Yigrem Demelash broke the Kenyan sequence by taking fourth ahead world record holder over 10K, Leonard Komon (27:01.58).
London winner, Mo Farah, must be relieved none of this bunch who were competing in a specially organised event set foot at the Olympics.
This begs the question, how did the country’s world class distance runners to stumble through London 2012 where they collected only two gold medals with such explosive talent?
On Thursday, Sports Minister, Dr. Paul Otuoma, said he had sent back the report to the National Olympics Committee of Kenya since “It contained many errors.”
The probe ordered by President Mwai Kibaki into the Olympics fiasco cannot be made public soon enough.
1 Silas Kiplagat 3:31.98
2 Mekonnen Gebremedhin ETH 3:32.10
3 Bethwel Birgen 3:32.24
4 Matthew Centrowitz USA 3:32.47
5 Asbel Kiprop 3:32.88
6 Daniel Kipchirchir Komen 3:32.98 SB
7 Nixon Chepseba 3:33.22
8 Taoufik Makhloufi 3:33.42
9 Caleb Ndiku 3:34.52
10 Collins Cheboi 3:34.59
1 Brimin Kipruto 8:03.11
2 Conseslus Kipruto 8:03.70
3 Paul Kipsiele Koech 8:04.01
4 Jairus Birech 8:05.71
5 Hillary Yego 8:12.63
6 Abel Mutai 8:13.49
7 Ángel Mullera 8:13.71
8 Silas Kitum 8:16.48 SB
9 Yoann Kowal 8:21.66 PB
10 Nikolay Chavkin 8:22.81
1 Emmanuel Bett 26:51.16 PB WL
2 Vincent Chepkok 26:51.68 PB
3 Kenneth Kipkemoi 26:52.65 PB WJL
4 Yigrem Demelash 26:57.56 NJR PB
5 Leonard Komon 27:01.58 SB
6 Mike Kigen 27:03.49 PB
7 Imane Merga ETH 27:14.02 SB
8 Isaiah Koech 27:17.03 PB
9 Jacob Chesari 27:19.70 PB
10 Geoffrey Kirui 27:21.12
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