StGalmier, FranceA crowd of 28,000 witnessed Augustine Choge lead an impressive Kenyan sweep of the Junior Men’s race taking the individual medals and team title on the second and final day of the 33rd edition of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in St-Etienne/St-Galmier.
Any doubt that the Kenyan junior men were adequately prepared to fight off any challenge of their Ethiopian rivals vanished on the third of four laps of the St. Galmier Hippodrome this afternoon.
Running near the front throughout the race the six Kenyans followed the early pace work of Bahrain’s Tariq Tahar before breaking away to earn their sixteenth men’s junior title in seventeen years. Filling the first five places, with four runners to score, the Kenyans tallied a perfect ten points to easily win the team competition.
Augustine Choge, the World Junior 5000m champion, commanded the race from the front injecting surges that gradually shook off respected pursuers such as Tariku Bekele the younger brother of Kenenisa Bekele and the surprising Tahar among others. Choge appeared relaxed throughout giving the impression he was running well within himself. Each lap was faster than the previous with the field completing the first lap in 6:37.
Attempts by Kiprop to disrupt the favourite with his own surges served only to ensure a medal for himself as Choge, who has a best 5000m time of 12:57.01, hardly blinked. The field was whittled down to seven by the start of the final lap, the six Kenyans were accompanied only by Solomon Molla the Ethiopian national junior trials winner. But he was no match for the mighty Kenyans.
Into the final straight Choge held a one second margin over his teammates Bernard Kipyego and Barnabas Kosgei and though they tried to close with a furious sprint neither could make a dent. Choge celebrated his victory blowing kisses to the crowd and raising his arms in joy. His winning time over the 8.1km course was 23:59. He completed the final go around in an amazing 5:35.
“Everything was fantastic, the course, the weather, the crowd,” said the delighted winner moments after the race. “My aim was to win, only to win. I was here for that. Before the race my tactic was to stay with the front group and wait until the last lap to sprint. Everything happened exactly the way I wanted. I am very happy.”
As if to underscore their dominance Moses Masai was Kenya’s sixth runner. He finished 7th in 24:19 just three seconds behind the struggling Bekele ( 24:16). Solomon Molla faded to 8th place while Taher was rewarded with 9th place for his gutsy running.
Once again African runners withstood the weather conditions well - it was 27 degrees celsius with humidity at 35% - and occupied the first six team places. Ethiopia, once again leaves Saint Etienne/Saint Galmier with the silver medal. Qatar took the bronze.
Paul Gains for the IAAF
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