Helsinki, FinlandAbout the same time that the defending World 5000m champion Eliud Kipchoge was racing through the mixed zone waving off interview requests, so obviously disappointed with his performance, Benjamin Limo the new champion was grinning from ear to ear.
After missing the gold by inches in the 1999 World Championships his six year wait for redemption had ended.
“This evening I feel very proud to win in Helsinki. Really, six years ago I just lost the gold medal on the line,” he recalled. “This year I have managed to secure it, struggling over the last two championships in Edmonton and Paris. You know it is really quite difficult for us to make the team in Kenya I was hoping to do well in Helsinki and finally I have done it. I have secured the gold medal for Kenya and I am very proud of it.”
It was his country’s only gold medal. And though Kipchoge and Isaac Songok were the people’s favourites Limo’s agent and coach, Ricky Simms felt he had a good chance all along. So he was not in the least surprised.
“Not really. He was second in the Kenyan trials and he pulled level with Songok with thirty metres to go and that was a very good performance,” Simms explains. “He had a little bit of a back problem when he ran in Rome. He ran 12 58. It wasn’t as well as we expected. We knew that in a slow race he had a really good kick. We worked really hard on change of pace stuff in the last couple of weeks in London. I don’t know what his last lap is but he can run 51 or 52 seconds if he needs to.”
Limo said he had not been confident in winning the race until there were just two laps remaining of the slow tactical affair. Indeed the first kilometre was reached in a pedestrian 2:52.
“It was not the kind of pace I needed. I like a race that is 2:40 (per
kilometre) high speed I was in front hoping to push the pace,” said the winner. “I wanted someone to assist me. That’s why I had to go hard the last 400m.”
“The World Championships can be anyone’s race. As we lined up for the start of the race I knew anybody can do it. Because you don’t know what kind of pace it is going to be and you don’t know how you are going to run.”
“I gained a lot of confidence in the last laps because I was still feeling very, very strong. I had run a lot of speedwork. The last 800m I was confident of making something and it gave me much courage in the last 70m.”
A son named ‘Helsinki’
Along with the gold medal this 30 year old from Eldoret had other good news this week and it was a toss up as to which was most significant.
“This evening I feel very proud for my country for being the only gold medallist since the start of the championships,” he told the press conference grinning with pride once again. “But more than that I feel myself proud because while I am in Helsinki I had a baby boy and I think I am going to call him Helsinki. He is the only son - we have three daughters.”
Paul Gains for the IAAF