Kenya swept both the women’s marathon and 10,000m at the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championship yesterday to finish the opening day with a perfect six-for-six in the medals table.
Edna Kiplagat crashed chest-forward on the street late in the marathon only to recover and lead her nation to an unprecedented sweep in the race. The women in the 10,000m were just as perfect in the only other final of the day.
Vivian Cheruiyot led a Kenyan sweep on the track as they dominated from halfway. All other challengers, including their Ethiopian rivals, failed to keep pace as Cheruiyot beat Sally Kipyego and defending champion Linet Masai.
Cheruiyot won in 30 minutes, 48.98 seconds, holding an edge of 1.06 seconds over Kipyego. Cheruiyot will be seeking a long-distance double as she also is the defending champion in the 5,000m.
Kenya’s perfect start contrasted with the fortunes of Olympic 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu and Australian pole vaulter Steve Hooker.
The British runner was disqualified for a false start in her opening heat and the defending pole vault champion from Australia no-heighted in qualification, both seeing their injury-marred season get even worse.
“Just mentally, it wasn’t there. I had no confidence in what I was doing out there,” Hooker said. “I wasn’t feeling it.”
Kiplagat certainly felt the stinging pain when she tangled up with teammate Sharon Cherop at one of the last water stations and suddenly was on all fours.
“I was a little shocked,” Kiplagat said. “What was in my mind was I wasn’t sure if I was going to pick up the pace again.”
Also shocked, Cherop helped pick up her veteran teammate and off they went again as a trio heading through the 27?C morning heat and humidity of inland South Korea.
Kiplagat won in a slow 2 hours, 28 minutes, 43 seconds to claim the first gold medal of the competition.
Hard-pressed to equal their third-place finish in the medals table from two years ago, they gave Kenya the perfect start to the competition with Kiplagat, a 31-year-old mother of two, leading Priscah Jeptoo and Cherop to the line.
The three embraced and gingerly walked away, arms warmly interlocking to celebrate the victory. No nation had ever clinched such a triple since the championships started 28 years ago.
“I hope this result will give motivation to our Kenyan team members,” Jeptoo said.
David Rudisha added to Kenya’s cheer, coasting in qualifying for an 800m race he is heavily favored to win on Tuesday.
However, nothing could match the roar at the 53,000-capacity Daegu Stadium for the first appearance of Usain Bolt. The Jamaican will start his quest for a third sprint triple in as many major championships.
After main rival Asafa Powell withdrew injured, it seems nothing can stop him from winning the marquee event of the championships. He will run the 200m and 4x100m relay race later.
The biggest shock early in the balmy evening session was the elimination of Ohuruogu. She could be one of the biggest local stars of the London Olympics next year, but she missed her chance to win another world title in the biggest warmup for the games.
The 2007 world champion stood in stunned silence for more than a minute after she was disqualified.