BydgoszczThere would be no denying of a Kenyan festival at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships here in Bydgoszcz as for the first time in the history of the comeptition the East African nation won all gold medals at stake, four individual and four team titles.
In 1994, Kenya had won 7 out of 8 gold medals.
Twenty-four hours ago, competitors feared conditions would be wet and damp and the approximate 2-km per lap course covered in mud but following a dry night, runners were actually facing a less demanding challenge with the sun even breaking through the morning clouds half an hour before the opening women’s junior race.
Perfect score in junior races
Last year’s runner up, Mercy Cherono whose fortunes in Bydgoszcz started a couple of years ago when she won the 3000m World Junior gold medal in the same city, set the tone for what turned out to be an outstanding domination of Kenyan runners.
In both the men’s and women’s junior races, not only did they win the individual and team titles but Kenyans did it in style sweeping the top four finishing positions and reaching a perfect team scoring of 10 points in both races.
As the Kenyan national anthem – which would be played no fewer than 8 times in less than three hours – was celebrating individual junior winner Caleb Ndiku, attention turned to the senior events. The mood among the Kenyan team was happier than ever, they were confident their medal tally was far from reached.
Melkamu grabs only individual medal for Ethiopia
With one lap to go in the women’s senior race, three-time World Cross Country champion Tirunesh Diababa had already dropped out of the leading pack leaving Meselech Melkamu as their only hope for gold. Melkamu was running hard in an attempt to spoil the Kenyan domination but it was not going to be as the Ethiopian eventually had to settle for bronze, amazingly the only individual medal for Ethiopia today.
There may have been disappointment for Linet Masai as she was out-sprinted for gold by compatriot Emily Chebet – similarly she had to settle for silver last year in Amman – but in the end what mattered most was that the Kenyans confirmed their return to winning ways in the senior ranks.
All that was left for the party to be complete was probably the hardest medal of all. It is hard to believe but Kenyan senior men hadn’t won an individual title since legendary Paul Tergat won gold no fewer than 11 years ago in Belfast. It was time for the trend to be reverted.
Joseph Ebuya was commanding in setting the record straight and although he could not inspire any of his Kenyan team-mates to join him on the individual podium, yet again he led his country’s team to gold.
USA take sole non-African medal
Of the twelve individual medals at stake, only three escaped Kenyan runners: the senior men’s silver and bronze which went to Teklemariam Medhin of Eritrea and Moses Kipsiro of Uganda and Melkamu’s senior women’s bronze.
In the team standings, Ethiopia grabbed three silver medals and one bronze as Eritrea upset them in the senior men’s race 46 to 69 points.
Only two other countries were represented on the podium today: Uganda reached team bronze in both the men’s and women’s junior races and notably Team USA, led by 12th place finisher Shalane Flanagan, scored an outstanding total of 76 points to take bronze in the women's senior race.
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF