Kenya's All Africa Games 4x400m Relay team, from left: Anderson Mureta, Jonathan Kibet, Vincent Mumo and Mark Mutai (© Mohammed Amin/Nation)
Kenya might have finished third on the overall track and field medals table at the 10th All Africa Games in Maputo, but some unique performances on the final day of competition (15) at the Estadio Nacionale will leave Team Kenya looking forward to a great Olympic year in 2012.
There were many talking points at the four-yearly Games, dubbed “Africa’s Olympics” which end Sunday (18 September), with Ethiopia’s Ibrahim Jeylan (men’s 10,000m) and Bostwana’s Amanthle Montsho (women’s 400m) the only World champions from Daegu who travelled to Maputo and successfully struck further gold medals in their specialties.
Nigeria topped the medals standings with 21 medals, 10 gold, six silver and five bronze with Ethiopia second with 20 (6-7-7) and Kenya third with 17 (5-5-7).
Kenya won gold medals in athletics through Hyvine Kiyeng (3,000m Steeplechase), Irene Jelagat (1500m), Julius Yego (Javelin Throw), the men’s 4x400m Relay and Caleb Mwangangi (men's 1500m).
Silver medallists were Bitan Karoki (10,000m), Kenneth Kemboi (Half Marathon), Collins Cheboi (1500m), and Joyce Jepkurui (1500m). Pauline Korikwang (5000m and 10,000m double), Job Kinyor (800m), Mark Mutai (400m) and the women's 4x400m Relay team won bronze medals.
'Coached' by Youtube, Yego prevails in Javelin
But two gold medals in particular stood out for Team Kenya – in the men’s javelin and 4x400m relay.
Having travelled to the Mozambican capital without a coach, policeman Julius Yego hurled the javelin at 78.34m to strike gold ahead of the more experienced pair of South Africa’s silver medalist Bernard Crous (72.68m) and Nigeria’s bronze medal winner Friday Osanyade (71.01m).
Yego said he relied on watching the likes of Norwegian star and Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen on YouTube to perfect his art of the throw, and found his mobile phone handy before competitions, logging onto YouTube to get inspiration and “coaching” ahead of competition.
“There is nobody who can coach us in Kenya. I got on to YouTube to see what people are doing. Now I want to shift my focus on targeting the 80m mark and the long road to qualifying for the Olympics next year,” said the Kenyan policeman who had initially, ironically, been thrown out of the team to Maputo to give room for distance runners.
And while Yego proved a point to his association, Kenya’s men’s 4x400m quartet followed suit, winning the gold medal with the women’s team in the same event striking bronze.
Kenya made one change to their team that finished sixth in the Worlds 4x400m men’s final in Daegu, bringing in Jonathan Kibet for Vincent Kiplagat, a change that bore gold in 3:03.10, a slower time than the 3:01.15 achieved by Kiplagat, Vincent Mumo, Anderson Mureta and Commonwealth 400m champion Mark Mutai in Daegu.
Nigeria (3:05.26) took silver and Botswana (3:05.92) the bronze with Nigeria winning the women’s long relay in 3:31.21 followed by Senegal (3:32.21) and bronze medalists Kenya (3:37.37).
Kenya won the 4x400m relay silver at the 1968 Mexico Olympics and graduated to gold four years later in Munich and pundits have been wondering just what caused the dearth of Kenyan sprinting.
Hopefully, the answer will have been provided by the much-travelled gold-medal winning quartet in Maputo that will now train their sights on next year’s London Olympics.
In a day of rich harvest for Kenya, Caleb Mwangangi, the 2010 World Cross junior champion and also World Junior champion in the 1,500m, won the first major title as a senior, braving a hamstring injury to take the 1,500m gold in 3:39.12.
Fellow Kenyan Collins Cheboi (3:39.72) took silver while Algerian 800m title holder Taofik Makihoufi fell short of his dream double, settling for bronze in 3:39.99.
Kenya also took the women’s 1500m gold through Irene Jalagat (4:13.67) with compatriot Joyce Chepkirui (4:13.71) taking silver and Ethiopia’s Tezita Ashame (4:14.41) the bronze.
Uganda’s Commonwealth Games double champion (10,000m and 5,000m) Moses Kipsiro made up for the disappointment of missing out of the Worlds in Daegu when he defended his 5000m title, winning in 13:43.08 and fending off a spirited Ethiopian attack by Yenew Alamrew Getahun (13:43.33) and Abayneh Ayele Woldegeo (13:43.51) who completed the podium places.
Nigeria’s Ajoke Odumosun (56.26) won the 400m Hurdles while compatriot Oludamola Osayomi (22.86) proved that she’s the African sprints Queen, adding the 200m title to the golds she won in the 100m and 4x100m Relay.
Elias Makori for IAAF
Final track and field medal table (gold, silver, bronze, total)
1. Nigeria (10, 6, 5) - 21
2. Ethiopia (6, 7, 7) - 20
3. Kenya (5, 5, 7) - 17
4. Algeria (5, 2, 2) - 9
5. Egypt (4, 0, 2) - 6
6. Tunisia (3, 3, 0) - 6
7. South Africa (2, 8, 3) - 13
8. Cameroon (2, 1, 3) - 6
9. Sudan (2, 0, 0) - 2
9. Uganda (2, 0, 0) - 2
11. Ivory Coast (1, 4, 0) - 5
11. Ghana (1, 4, 0) - 5
13. Senegal (1, 3, 1) - 5
14. Botswana (1, 1, 3) - 5
15. Liberia (1, 0, 1) - 2
16. Mozambique (0, 1, 0) - 1
16. Mauritius (0, 1, 0) - 1
18. Namibia (0, 0, 3) - 3
18. Seychelles (0, 0, 3) - 3
20. Madagascar (0, 0, 2) - 2
21. Lesotho (0, 0, 1) - 1
21. Togo (0, 0, 1) – 1