Javelin throwing’s loss is distance running’s gain because Caleb Ndiku chose not to follow in his father’s David’s career as a thrower.
That decision was further justified when he regained the world title for Kenya. The tall and powerful Ndiku already won the World Youth silver last year at 1500m, and with an impressive P.B. at that distance of 3:38.2, you might have expected him to sit in a kick in the closing stages of this much longer race.
In fact he won from the front, breaking clear with a scorching third 1926m lap in 5:22.
In the first half of the race Kenya were typically dominant, with Ndiku, Clement Langat and Japhet Korir all taking turns in front and with all their compatriots close by. There was quite a bit of looking around by the leaders and what they saw was that some Ethiopians were struggling to stay in the lead pack of 20 or so at the end of the first lap. All of whom were of East African origin or from South Africa.
When Ndiku made his move during the third lap, the only non-Kenyan to try to keep up was Uganda’s Moses Kibet, who was third in 2009. But Kibet paid for that effort, because Ndiku pulled further clear and then Langat and Korir went 2-3 as the quartet negotiated the twists and obstacles on the second half of the lap.
At the bell, Ndiku was some 40m in front and starting to lap some of the back markers. The undulating course made it hard to judge Ndiku’s lead but it did seem that the fight between Langat and Korir was bringing them closer to the leader.
Ndiku’s lead was being cut to within 10m as Langat sprinted furiously around the last corner, but it was too late. Meanwhile Isaiah Koech had moved into fourth to secure Kenya a perfect team score of 10 for the fifth time in the history of the championships.
The winner thanked god for his victory. “I never knew that I was going to win,” he said, “I never looked behind.”
He then explained about his attempts at javelin. “I tried when I was very young but it was hard for me.” How far did he throw? “I cannot tell because I had nobody to coach me and ended up thinking that was no good for me, so I decided to run.”
His coach now is Paul Mutwii who is a vice-chairman of Athletics Kenya.
Langat admitted that he realised too late that he might have won the race, so was he disappointed?
“No,” he explained with wide eyes. “I was only seventh in the Kenyan trials and now I have a silver medal.”
The team order was the same as in the junior women, Kenya from Ethiopia and Uganda.
The first finisher without African origin was Japan’s Akinobu Murasawa closely followed by Trevor Dunbar of the United States with the top European Sondre Nordstad Moen (NOR) in 31st.
“We will catch up with them eventually,” remarked Dunbar. “But it won’t be tomorrow.”
Mark Butler for the IAAF