24 MAR 2001 General News

Enock Koech gives Kenya second Gold of the Championships

Enock Koech gives Kenya second gold of the day
Sean Wallace-Jones for IAAF

24 March 2001 - Running clear of the rest of the field, 20 year old Enock Koech was the decisive victor in the men’s short cross, the second race of this first day of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Ostend.

After the near-pedestrian start of the junior women’s race, which was the first event in today’s timetable, the men’s short cross got off to a sprint start on the heavy ground of the Wellington Hippodrome.

Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia was the early leader and took the field through the first kilometre, before the Kenya squad took over the running, with Koech and his team-mate Benjamin Limo heading the rest of the Kenyans as they led the race through to the finish.

Koech, who was the winner of the 4 kilometre race at the Kenyan national championships left nothing to chance, once he had taken the lead and with Limo gradually edged clear of the rest, with Bekele the only non-Kenyan managing to keep any sort of contact with the pair as they streaked around the muddy course.

Bekele slipped ahead of Limo in the final metres to cross the line two seconds behind Koech, who was timed across the line in 12:40 and a second ahead of third-paced Limo in a tightly bunched finish that saw a mere nine seconds separating the first eight finishers, with eighth place going to Australian Craig Mottram.

Morocco’s Brahim Boulami trailed in ninth, eleven seconds after the leaders.

In the end, Kenya truly routed the rest of the field, taking six of the first seven places! With the leading four places from each country counting towards team points, Kenya also took the highest step of the podium in the team competition, followed by Morocco in second place and Ethiopia in third.

It was Kenya's fourth successive individual and team victory in the men's short course race since the introduction of the event in 1998.

"Even though the course was very tough, I didn’t feel any pressure on me. I didn’t like the mud or the cold but I knew I could run a good race," said Koech whose race in Ostend was his first ever outside Kenya.

Koech comes from Kericho, a small village in the Rift Valley and started running in 1999. Francis Nyatome, Kenya’s press attaché describes him as a natural talent. "His first race was a district race which he easily won. He then won the Province race and then the National high school championships."

"I want to compete more on the track this summer, probably over 1500m which is my favourite race."

Koech who trains with Josep Chelimo attended Lelmokwo school from which he graduated in 1999 before deciding to concentrate on track and field.

He joined Jos Hermens’ group last summer and is delighted to be part of such a famous training group. "Jos is great," he says, "and I am proud to have been chosen to be one of his group."

Limo said that they had planned to go out fast and stamp their authority on the race in the early stages, but the consditions of the course meant that their original tactics were very quickly revised. "I think you can see that things did not go according to plan. John Kibowen was way back in the early stages and he was the defending champion."

Quotes by Laura Arcoleo.

 

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