Daegu, KoreaCould Kenya have asked for anything better? Six medals were at stake on the opening day of the IAAF World Championships in Daegu and all will make the 10,070 kilometre journey back to the east African distance powerhouse.
In two stunning performances some nine hours apart, six Kenyan women covered just under 157 kilometres in all en route to podium sweeps in the morning’s Marathon and this evening’s 10,000m, a historical milestone that won’t easily be topped. Adding insult to their challengers’ proverbial injury, they took spot No. 4 in the 10,000m as well, a first 1-2-3-4 finish ever in the event.
Morning Marathon sweep...
Prior to this morning, Kenya had won a total of three medals in the women’s Marathon at all World Championships combined, all courtesy of two-time winner Catherine Ndereba. By 11:30 this morning that number had doubled.
The victory went to strong pre-race favourite Edna Kiplagat, last November’s winner in New York, who crossed the finish unchallenged in 2:28:43. Even a tumble and fall at a water stop with team-mate Sharon Cherop in the 37th kilometre – Cherop would later take bronze — couldn’t stop Kiplagat, who covered the second half in under 1:12, nearly five minutes faster than the first. She was 17 seconds ahead of Priscah Jeptoo, who in turn was 14 in front of Cherop.
How memorable was their achievement? No nation has ever swept the medals at a World Championship or Olympic Games in the event. Prior to this morning, none has managed a 1-2 finish. But this was just a warm-up.
.. and 1-2-3-4 (!) in the 10,000m
Team Kenya looked strong on paper coming into Daegu, but there were a few question marks - those were quickly answered and thrown aside about an hour after a capacity crowd of 44,618 enjoyed a sensational opening ceremony.
This time it was Vivian Cheruiyot’s turn to lead the juggernaut, taking a commanding victory in 30:48.98, a personal best. Crossing the line with a wide toothy grin, the 27-year-old seemed to be thinking that the more difficult half of her double ambition went off without a hitch. International newcomer Sally Kipyego looked strong with her silver medal run, with defending champion Linet Masai rounding out the trio. Priscah Cherono sealed the deal with her fourth place finish, 0.12 ahead of Ethiopian Meselech Melkamu, the African record holder.
The Kenyan quartet’s awesome feat was just the third in Championships history: Ethiopian women took the first spots in the 5000m and American men in the 200m, both in Helsinki six years ago.
Bolt cool, calm and quick in 100m opener
Judging from the opening round get-out-the-cobwebs efforts, another sweep on Sunday night isn’t entirely outside the realm of possibility. This time it could be team Jamaica in the men’s 100m, led by defending champion Usain Bolt. Despite a nominal effort for 50 metres of his opening round run, the World record holder was the quickest of the round at 10.10, while his compatriots Yohan Blake, Nesta Carter, and Michael Frater looked strong, and relatively unwinded as well.
But American champion Walter Dix looked quite comfortable as well, as did 2003 champion Kim Collins.
Elsewhere in opening round action, David Rudisha played the part of World champion in the making with exceptional ease, cruising to a front-running win in his heat. The fastest of the morning was his No. 1 rival Abubaker Kaki in 1:44.83, the only man at the moment who appears to be able to stick with the Kenyan in what presumably will be a fast final.
Meanwhile, the Decathlon went according to plan, with Aston Eaton carrying a narrow 53-point lead into the second day. Endind the first day with a solid 46.99 run in the 400m, Eaton tallied 4446 points, ahead of team-mate and defending champion Trey Hardee's 4393.
Opening round fatalities
In what were primarily easy-going opening performances for the bigger names, there were a few notable exceptions whose Daegu experience was a short one.
On the track, among the more dramatic early departures came in the third heat of the women’s 400m opening round, where Christine Ohuruogu, the 2007 World champion and 2008 Olympic champion, was disqualified for a false start, ending her appearance before it even started.
Day 1 wasn’t particularly kind if you were a defending champion from Australia. Pole vaulter Steve Hooker, still on the comeback from injury, crashed out at the opening height of 5.50m, putting a quick end to his defence ambitions. Dani Samuels, whose victory in Berlin two years ago was as surprising as Hooker’s was dramatic, did squeeze into tomorrow evening’s final, qualifying as the 11th of the dozen who moved on.
Germany’s Nadine Muller, the most consistent thrower coming into the Championships, led all qualifiers at 65.54m, while Renaud Lavillenie and Romain Mesnil, the bronze and silver medallists two years ago, moved on in the Pole Vault, keeping their bid for a podium repeat very much alive.
Elsewhere, defending champions Sanya Richards-Ross (400m) and Brittney Reese (Long Jump) of the U.S. and Slovenia’s Primoz Kozmus (Hammer Throw) all moved on.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF