NAIROBI, Kenya- At last, at long last, Wycliffe Kinyamal won Kenya her first gold medal at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games when he bagged the men 800m crown on Thursday afternoon in Australia.
Kinyamal reclaimed the Club Games title Kenya lost to Botswana star Nijel Amos at Glasgow 2014 when he stopped the clock at 1:45.11 to spark collective relief in a country that had seen its ambitions on stamping her authority in track and field dim with every passing day of action.
Kyle Langford (1:45.16) ran a personal best to take silver with home runner, Luke Mathews (1:45.60) winning bronze in a seasonal best time.
Amos who beat world record holder, David Rudisha to the top medal four years ago had a shocking final outing, finishing last in 1:48.45 with the second Kenyan in the final, Jonathan Kitilit (1:46.12) coming home in sixth.
Kinyamal chose the perfect time to end the gold-drought, the very last event of the programme on Day 9 of the competition to push Kenya’s tally to 18th overall with seven medals, a gold, three silver and three bronze on a day where hopes of getting the most coveted prize dissipated earlier in the day.
Beijing 2015 world champion, Nicholas Bett and his twin brother Aron Koech, a bronze winner at the 2016 African championships, failed to hit the heights in the men 400m Hurdles with gold going to British Virgin Islands runner, Kyron McMaster in 48.25.
Koech led the Kenyan charge in sixth, stopping the timer at 50.02 with the former world champion Bett propping the field in 51.00, later claiming in a television interview he saw ‘darkness’ as they approached the home straight.
Jeffery Gibson (49.10) from the Bahamas and Jaheel Hyde (49.16) from Jamaica won their nations the minor medals in that order.
The corresponding women’s race was won by Jamaican Janieve Russel (54.33) ahead Eilidh Doyle (54.80) of Scotland and Wenda Nel (54.96) who sealed the podium in the silver and bronze positions.
There was better news for Team Kenya in the women 800m on the fifth day of track and field action when Eglay Nalyanya, Emily Cherotich Tuwei and Olympic bronze winner, Margaret Nyairera advanced to the final.
Their seemingly thankless task will be to stop South African super star, Caster Semenya, the Olympic and world champion of the distance from clinching the Gold Coast 2018 mid distance double having already clinched the 1500m title.
Nyairera who finished fourth at the London 2017 Worlds last year, hardly broke sweat when running 2:00.60 to win Heat 2 in a race she towed Natoya Goule (2:00.74) of Jamaica and Shelayna Oskan-Clarke (2:00.81) across the line in second and third.
Oskan-Clarke took the early initiative, leading at the bell at 400m in 1:02.12 and Halima Nakaayi of Uganda took over and crossed 600m in 1:31.53 before Nyairera made her move and powered through the final bend and into the homestretch to close out the win.
Cherotich took cue and delivered Heat 3 in 2:00.58, beating Uganda’s Winnie Nyandondo (2:00.69) and Georgia Griffith (2:00.73) of Australia who clocked a lifetime best to the line to clinch her ticket to the medal race.
Not taking chances, Cherotich led throughout the splits, timing 59.39 at 400m and 1:30.84 at 600m as she motored to the finish unchallenged.
Running in Heat 1, the Rio 2016 and London 2017 titleholder took over front running duties from New Zealand Angela Petty who crossed 400m ahead in 59.62 before leading the field through 600m in 1:29.75 and closing for victory in 1:59.26, Alexandra Bell (2:00.11) leading the challengers home in second.
Semenya was the only athlete among 26 starters across the three heats who broke 2:00 with her heat producing the two fastest loser qualifiers in the third Kenyan Natalya (2:00.28) and Docus Ajok (2:00.53) of Uganda who trailed Semenya and Bell in that order.
Seven-time national men Triple jump champion, Elijah Kimitei, came agonisingly close to making the final of his field event when he missed the last slot by a whisker after finishing 13th overall in the qualification round with a best leap of 15.75m. Rakesh Babu (15.98m) of India grabbed the last place ahead of the Kenyan.