GOLD COAST, Australia- African champion, Samuel Ireri Gathimba made history when he became the first Kenyan to win a Commonwealth Games medal in the men 20km Race walking after winning bronze at Gold Coast 2018.
The 30 year-old stopped the timer at 1:19:51 to round off the podium as hosts Australia continued their peerless record at the event when Dane Bird-Smith took gold in a Games’ record of 1:19:34 with Tom Bonswoth of England taking silver (1:19:38) four seconds adrift.
Edward Pingua Zakayo won the country’s second medal when he ran 13:54.06 for another bronze in the 5000m won by Uganda’s Joshua Cheptengei (13:50.83) with Canadian Mohammed Ahmed (13:52.78) taking silver.
Nicholas Kipkorir (14:13.97) finished ninth in the 12 and a half lap-race where Melbourne 2006 winner and London Marathon champion, Eliud Kipchoge (12:56.41) holds the Commonwealth record.
In the Race walking final, compatriot Samuel Wachira (1:26:33) arrived home in 12th in a race where Gathimba provided a rare medal and a first for Team Kenya in the country’s quest to defend their crown in athletics at Gold Coast as the country landed on joint-17th in the medal charts led by Australia (22 gold, 17 silver and 21 bronze).
England (14, 14 and six) and India (six, two, one) are second and third in the podium tally in that order in as the day three of the event that has 275 competed events in 19 sports closed.
Bird-Smith turned the streets of Currumbin gold on his way to victory in the men’s 20km Race Walk having grown up surf lifesaving at the Burleigh Heads-Mowbray Park Surf Club, just a few kilometres from the stretch of beachfront that hosted his triumphant win.
In a very close race, Bird-Smith took the lead with the finish line in sight, finishing just four seconds ahead of England’s Tom Bosworth as Gathimba won bronze, to give his nation what is a first of many expected from Gold Coast 2018 by Kenyans.
“The last 500m hurt so much but I had everyone behind me which made it so special,” said Bird-Smith who paid tribute to the home crowd that made all the difference in the final stretch of the race.
His trainer and father, David Smith, hailed the new Commonwealth champion.
“It’s fantastic, we worked really hard. I’m very proud. He’s compromised everything in his life to do it and we stuck to the plan, he executed the plan perfectly. He was brilliant.”
Bosworth’s time was also an English national record. After being disqualified from the 2017 World Championships, he said the race, record and medal win was redemption.
Gathimba emerged at international level in 2014, taking a silver medal at the 2014 African Championships in Athletics behind Lebogang Shange of South Africa.
He set a personal best of 1:23:59 hours to place second at the national championships that year, behind David Kimutai Rotich.
Gathimba topped the podium at the 2015 national trials with a new best of 1:23:12 hours, which ranked him in the world’s top 100 for the first time.
He again demonstrated his place among the continent’s best at the 2015 African Games where he lost out on the gold to Shange by a margin of one second.
The 2016 season proved to be a breakthrough for Gathimba. At the 2016 African Championships in Athletics he was a gold medallist by a large margin, crossing the line in a championship record of 1:19:24 hours.
This was a Kenyan record and was 22 seconds off Hatem Ghoula’s near two-decade-old African best.
Elsewhere, having advanced by finishing second (10.35) in the heats, sprinter Mark Otieno Odhiambo’s brave run in the men 100m ended at the second semifinal with 10.37 only good enough for fifth.
Boniface Mweresa (46.32) punched his ticket to the men 400m semis on Monday after squeezing through by finishing third in his preliminary race with Collins Omae Gichana ending his interests at the heats when he clocked 46.57 for fourth.
The third Kenya at the event, Alex Sampao, did not make the start.
-Material from Gold Coast 2018 website used to compile this report