Joshua Cheptegei and Caster Semenya completed Commonwealth Games doubles with panache on the sixth day of athletics with Games record victories in Gold Coast on Friday (13).
Just as in the 5000m on the opening day of athletics last Sunday, Cheptegei’s powerful finish enabled him to draw just clear of Canada’s Mo Ahmed to win the 10,000m, emulating fellow Ugandan Moses Kipsiro, who completed the same distance double in Delhi in 2010.
Uganda has now eclipsed the Kenyan men at 10,000m at the past four editions of the Games and this time added to the pain by also taking the Games record from their east African neighbour. Cheptegei’s 27:19.62 smashed the 27:45.39 record set by Kenya’s last winner, Wilberforce Talel in Manchester in 2002.
Last Sunday, Cheptegei closed in 5:03 for the last 2000 metres and covered the final mile within four minutes as he and Ahmed duelled over the final laps.
The 10,000m takes a greater toll on such finishing speed, but with Ahmed moving first, the last three laps went by in 1:02.60, 59.47 and 56.84. Cheptegei covered the final 1000 metres in 2:26.32.
The leading two finally broke away with Ahmed’s move leaving world U20 champion Rodgers Kwemoi to salvage the bronze medal for Kenya after a battle with Jacob Kiplimo and Jake Robertson. Ahmed ran 27:20.56, Kwemoi 27:28.66.
Semenya had a much easier time of it, leading all the way to win the 800m in 1:56.68, breaking the Games record of 1:57.35 set by Maria Mutola in 2002.
The world and Olympic champion from South Africa led pretty much every step of the way, passing through the first lap in 58.66. The second was marginally faster at 58.02.
Kenya’s Margaret Wambui won the battle for the silver in 1:58.07, allowing Mutola to remain on top in one 800m statistic: her winning margin in 2002 was 1.47, Semenya’s here was 1.39.
Jamaica’s Natoya Goule took the bronze in 1:58.82.
Kipruto conducts Kenyan steeplechase sweep
One of the seemingly immutable laws of world athletics – and a certainty of Commonwealth athletics – is that Kenya will sweep the men’s steeplechase.
Friday the 13th of April in Carrara Stadium again proved to be an ill-omened day for anyone other than a Kenyan steeplechaser. Canada’s Matt Hughes was on for a medal for all but the final 300 metres of the race and still had one hand on a bronze medal with five metres to run.
Inevitably, it slipped from his grasp. Amos Kirui drew level; Hughes dove despairingly, but unavailingly. Kirui took the bronze, Hughes slammed his hand into the track, not at all consoled by the fact it was the closest margin between third and fourth in Games history.
The sweep may have been completed by Kirui, but it was orchestrated by world and Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto. Barely having seen off Hughes himself as he swung into the final straight, Kipruto turned conductor, gesturing to Abraham Kibiwott and Kirui to follow him home.
Kipruto won in a Games record of 8:10.07. Kibiwott took silver in 8:10.62, Kirui bronze in 8:12.24.
It was the sixth straight sweep by Kenya since 1998. The last non-Kenyan medallist was Graeme Fell for Canada in 1994. Kenya took the gold and silver then, as they did in 1990. The last non-Kenyan winner of the race, excluding 1986 when there was an African boycott, is Tony Manning of Australia in 1970, when he beat a field including Ben Jipcho and world record-holder Kerry O’Brien.
It seems like there might be a greater chance death and taxes are not certain than a non-Kenyan has of winning a Commonwealth steeplechase medal.
Gold medals continue to come in pairs on the field
For a third consecutive evening session, gold medals on the field came in pairs. Previously it was the hosts, but day six saw Jamaica take gold in the men’s discus and women’s shot put.
Fedrick Dacres was favourite in the men’s discus, but he stamped his authority on the event in outstanding manner, topping a magnificent series with his Games record of 68.20m in the third round. His five other throws measured 67.51m, 67.14m, 66.09m, 65.55m and 65.00m. Any one of those would have been enough to win.
It was a 1-2 for Jamaica as teammate Traves Smikle took the silver with 63.98m. Apostolos Parellis earned a bronze for Cyprus with 63.61m.
Valerie Adams, returning from the birth of her first child, was going for a fourth straight title in the women’s shot, but her season’s best of 18.70m was not sufficient to hold off Jamaica’s Danniel Thomas-Dodd.
Thomas-Dodd drew level with an 18.70m in the second round and then produced a winning 19.36m in the fifth. It was also a national record.
Newman wins epic pole vault battle
Canada’s Alysha Newman won a battle of nerves with New Zealand’s Olympic bronze medallist Eliza McCartney to take the gold in the women’s pole vault.
Behind at 4.70m, which McCartney cleared at the second attempt, Newman elected to pass her final attempt and go up to 4.75m.
Newman cleared first time, putting the pressure back on McCartney, who missed. Now it was the favourite’s turn to attempt a higher height, but she missed twice and the gold medal went to Newman.
Both Newman’s winning 4.75m and McCartney’s 4.70m beat the previous Games record set by Kym Howe in Melbourne in 2006. Australia’s Nina Kennedy took the bronze medal with a clearance of 4.60m.
World champion Sally Pearson made an appearance on the Carrara track, but only for a pre-competition interview as she is out of the Games 100m hurdles with an achilles injury.
In her absence from the race, Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan won the 100m hurdles gold by a clear metre in 12.68 from Jamaican pair Danielle Williams, 12.78, and Yanique Thompson, 12.97.
Warding off a sore calf which was strapped, England’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson held on for a relatively comfortable win in the heptathlon, her first major outdoor senior title.
Johnson-Thompson’s 6225 points put her 108 clear of Canada’s Nina Schultz with England’s Niamh Emerson overtaking Australia’s Celeste Mucci in the 800m to take the bronze, 6043 to 5915. None of the latter three has turned 20 and all three records PBs. Emerson and Mucci are eligible for the IAAF World U20 championships later this year.
Len Johnson for the IAAF