Florence Kiplagat did what many undoubtedly felt like doing when she won the senior women’s race here, she fainted.
Presumably, it was the grueling run up the punishing hill to the finish which did her in. That was the expected change of elevation and many competitors finished rubber-legged and light-headed this day. Or maybe it was the unexpected change of elevation from second to first as Kiplagat closed down her teammate Linet Masai up the climb to claim the gold medal and the honour of leading Kenya to the team gold medal as well.
For much of the race Masai, fourth in last year’s Olympic 10,000 metres final, had looked the winner. At times she led by 50 metres. Then, the battle for what seemed likely to be second place between Kiplagat, Ethiopia’s Meselech Melkamu and Gelete Burka and Kenya’s Linet Chepkurui closed the gap. Ultimately, it brought Kiplagat close enough to pull off the win.
She deserved to faint, but as the winner of the Kenyan trials and of major permit races in Elgoibar and Seville, perhaps it was no real shock.
Masai took her defeat with surprising equanimity, the blow softened by the team connection. “I thought I was winning,’’ she said of her effort, “then Florence won. As long as it was another Kenyan it’s OK.”
Once Kiplagat had recovered, she said she was proud to be the first Kenyan senior women’s winner since Helen Chepngeno in 1994.
‘’I would like to thank God,” she said. “Kenya has not won since 1994. We are determined to perform at the same level as Kenyan men.”
There were more changes than first and second over the final loop of the Bisharat Golf Club circuit. A seemingly close battle for the team trophy evaporated with the Kenyan one-two, Chepkurui taking fourth and Anne Karindi Mwangi seventh. For Ethiopia, Melkamu led the way with her third long-course bronze medal (plus one of the same colour in the short-course in 2006), with Ethiopian trial winner Wude Ayalew fifth and Gelete Burka, who was sporting a compression bandage on her calf shortly after the race, eighth.
Kenya’s team gold was its first since 2001 and broke a string of seven straight by Ethiopia. Melkamu said the absence of three-time long-course champion Tirunesh Dibaba went a long way to explaining the team result.
“Tirunesh’s absence hurt us and we knew we would have a difficult time. It was an extremely difficult race, the course, the weather, everything!”
Indeed it was. The first half of the race was dominated by New Zealand’s Kim Smith who seemed determined to replicate the Kiwi triumphs of Rabat in 1975 when the men won the team’s race and the women were second.
The determined Smith forced the pace through the first two laps but fell away when Masai took off, eventually finishing a still-creditable 13th, the first non-African finisher. Portugal’s Ana Felix (15th) and Sara Moreira (16th) took the minor medals in the non-African individual race and Portugal took the real bronze medal in the team’s race.
Australia’s Lisa Jane Weightman was 17th and Britain’s Stephanie Twell, who lurked at the back of the lead pack for the first half, finished 38th. Of other pre-race contenders, Hilda Kibet of the Netherlands was sixth, World 1500m champion Maryam Yusuf Jamal ninth and Smith, as noted, 13th.
Len Johnson for the IAAF
A sum of US$280,000 in prize money is being paid by the IAAF for the two senior races in Amman.**
A US$30,000 prize is available for each individual winner of the men’s and women’s senior races with money filtering down to 6th position where the reward is US$3000 per athlete. In total US$140,000 is on offer as individual prizes.
In terms of the team contest in both senior events, there is another prize pool of US$140,000. This is distributed with US$20,000 going to the first team home in each race, descending to 6th place where the pay out is US$4000.
Prize Money in US$ – senior men’s and women’s races only
1st – 30,000
2nd – 15,000
3rd – 10,000
4th – 7000
5th – 5000
6th – 3000
1st – 20,000
2nd – 16,000
3rd – 12,000
4th – 10,000
5th – 8000
6th – 4000
** There is no prize money paid for the two junior races.
The payment of prize money in the senior races is dependent upon the athletes clearing the usual anti-doping procedures.