gold for Kenya in final metres
5 May 2002 – Brussels, Belgium – It was neck and neck to the line in the men’s race, but at the finish Kenya’s Paul Kosgei slipped past Morocco's Jaouad Gharib to win the Championships in a time of 1:00:39, just three seconds ahead of the Moroccan.
Tanzania’s John Yuda took third place after making the running for much of the race.
Better known as a steeplechaser and cross country specialist, Kosgei was competing for the first time in the World Half Marathon Championships.
Yuda had come under the spotlights earlier this year, when he took silver in the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Dublin in March, where he had also made much of the running before being beaten at the finish by Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele.
Here in Brussels, he went out strongly from the start and led the leaders through 5km in 14:48, 10km in 28:48, with Gharib taking over the lead at around the 15km point (43:19). At this point the three medallists were heading the field, with Kosgei and Yuda trailing Gharib by a couple of seconds, closely followed by Italy’s Rachid Berradi.
From the 15km point the three continued to build up a lead from the following pack.
Kosgei said afterwards that it was his first half marathon: “I did not really know when to go and when to make the move, as it was my first race at half marathon.
“I knew from three kilometres from the finish that I was going to win. I could see that John Yuda was weakening and I was sure that I could beat the Moroccan with my kick.”
Which is exactly what he did. For the last couple of kilometres, this was a two man race, with Yuda left way behind as the Kosgei and Gharib pulled away and rapidly built up a gap of two hundred metres or so with the Tanzanian, who had nothing left to pull them back in.
“When Gharib made his move,” said Yuda, “I couldn’t hang on. I had a lot of races over the last few weeks. I competed also in the Stramilano and that was probably one race too many.
“The weather conditions didn’t bother me. It can be rainy in Tanzania and Kenya sometimes too. The World Cross Country Championships were a good preparation for this race and I can be satisfied with my result: bronze again like last year in Bristol.”
Unusually, Gharib was the sole representative of Morocco competing in the men’s race – just as his compatriot Asmae Laghzaoui was the only Moroccan in the women’s race. Asked about this limited representation from a traditionally strong country in the event, Gharib explained that most of his compatriots were already in training for the track season.
Despite his success today, Kosgei has nor real ambitions to quite the track in the immediate future: “I will still continue running on track and doing cross country. I have changed my focus from the steeplechase to the 10,000 metres, which I will run in the Commonwealth Games this summer. Maybe in two or three years I will start to think about running the marathon.”
Kosgei’s win helped to give Kenya gold in the team competition, ahead of Japan and Ethiopia. See full results and splits in the results section of this special events section.