NAIROBI, Kenya- Kenya added two more Commonwealth Games medals on Wednesday but the one they wanted escaped their grasp when Jamaican Aisha Prought produced a stunning victory in the women 3000m steeplechase.
Favourite Celliphine Chepteek Chespol and Glasgow 2014 champion, Purity Cherotich Chepkurui escorted Prought to the podium in silver and bronze positions in that order as the Jamaican extended Kenya’s gold drought in Gold Coast at the Carrara Stadium track as she made history for her Caribbean nation.
Hands up anyone who thought they would live to see the day when a Jamaican beat a Kenyan in the water and barriers race or in this age of social media, post such sporting ‘blasphemy’ on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Flickr e.t.c!
This was surely the biggest upset in track and field at Gold Coast 2018 or in any other discipline for that matter. It will take some believing to comprehend what happened.
The former IAAF World Under 18 and Under 20 champion Chespol arrived in Australia as the woman to beat and Kenyans who had watched runners from Uganda and South Africa steal their thunder in the past three days were eagerly anticipating to hear their national anthem played inside the Carrara for the first time.
However, strange things happen in sport but nothing had prepared the proud East African distance running giants for what unfolded. Everything looked to be going according to the script when the Kenyans wasted little time to tale the lead after the gun, with Cherotich towing the field through the opening 1000m in 3:16.09.
Chespol then took over the front running duties and led through the 2000m mark in 6:16.67 and at the bell, it was a matter of what daylight she would put between her and the chasing pack with the familiar sight of a red, green and black-vested athlete going for glory beamed across the stadium and the watching world.
Prought, who had shadowed the leaders throughout the race, then came to the fore when she first eased past Cherotich who had by then surrendered her crown and hared after the leader.
At the final water jump, Chespol held the advantage but the acceleration needed to put the issue beyond doubt was lacking, as she seemed to be labouring to hold on to her lead. Sensing blood, Prought reeled her in and went past the Kenyan like a Sunday afternoon stroll as they approached the final curve.
The Jamaican then injected a decisive turn of pace as they entered the homestretch and try as she might, Chespol could not respond as the yellow and green vested challenger went through the final hurdle and powered to victory, stopping the clock in 9:21.00 in what was honestly, a slow burner.
Chespol, shocked, drained and spent, came home in 9:22.61 for the silver with Cherotich further back in 9:25.74 for the bronze and with only four days to go before the conclusion of Gold Coast 2018, Kenya’s grip on the overall Commonwealth track and field title appears to have ended.
Fancy Cherono, the third Team Kenya runner in the water and barriers race final, ran a lifetime best of 9:46.27 for sixth and is definitely one for the future on her first senior outing.
Athletics Kenya and leaders were quick to take on to social media to hail the latest additions to the country’s medal basket but there was no disguising the sinking feeling of a golden chance lost- with all due respect to the podium finishers- with the despondent look on Chespol’s face after the race telling it all.
Chespol added to the silver medals won by Stacy Ndiwa (women 10000m) and Beatrice Chepkoech (women 1500m) with Cherotich joining Samuel Ireri Gathimba (men 20km Race walking) and Edward Pingua Zakayo (men 5000m) as the other bronze medallist in Australia.
The performance thus far which has seen Kenya surrender four titles won in Glasgow 2014; women 3000m steeplechase, women 10000m, women 1500m and men 5000m, left the country 23rd in the Gold Coast 2018 medal standings.
South Africa (fifth), Nigeria (10th), Uganda (14th) and even Botswana (17th) are the African nations ahead of the track and field powerhouse who are having an event to forget.
In other events, national champion Priscilla Tabuda came unstuck in the women Long jump preliminary round when her best effort of 5.68m saw her prop Group B in ninth.
It was also the end of the Gold Coast 2018 road for sprinter Millicent Ndoro (24.42) who finished bottom of the women 200m semi finals list after taking the wooden spoon in Race 3.
Mark Otieno Odhiambo (21.29) crashed out in the corresponding men’s semis after coming sixth in Race 2.