Victories by Kennedy Ochieng, Kipkurui Misoi and Japhet Kimutai at the All Africa Games (AAG) demonstrated that Kenyans can clinch gold medals whether each athlete goes it alone or they use a team strategy to win a race.
Accelerating from 250m, Ochieng powered his way to win the 400m in a season best of 44.77 seconds. Nigeria’s Clement Chukwu was runner up in 45.31, while Zimbabwean Phillip Mukomana was third in 45.43.
The victory marked his return to the limelight in two ways. First, it is the second best time of his career behind a 44.5 hand recorded time in 1993 in Nairobi. Secondly, Ochieng seems to have rewarding outings when African championships are held in South Africa. This is his first victory at a major championship since he clinched gold at the Africa championships in Durban in 1993.
"I took it easy today because l was confident. I had a better time than the other athletes and so there was no way they were going to beat me. This year l have prepared well for international competitions and l knew that if l comfortably qualify for the finals, l was going to win the race," said Ochieng.
The Kenyans once again proved they are the masters of teamwork. Christopher Koskei and Wilson Boit Kipketer, who won gold and silver respectively at the World Championships last month, teamed up with the less well known Kipkurui Misoi to sweep the board in the 3000m steeplechase.
Half way through the race Misoi made his break to open a 80 metre lead during the final lap, while Kipketer and Koskei dictated the pace at the head of the chase group. Once Misoi was safely across the finish line, the world champion medallists sprinted shoulder to shoulder over the last 40 metres to ensure Kenya took the three medals at stake. Misoi clocked 8:32.42, to Kipketer’s 8:41.33 and Koskei’s 8:41.35.
"We went out there with the aim of winning all three medals. We felt that the Algerian (Manu Daba who finished fifth) was the only threat to our plan as he has run with us on the European circuit, said Koskei.
"Most of our opponents thought either me or Kipketer would go out to the front. We wanted Misoi to win, as he has no gold medal from an international championship in his closet. It was his turn and what matters to us is that Kenyans win all the medals in this event," explained Koskei.
Earlier on Benjamin Kipkirui, Kenneth Kimwetich and Kimutai displayed a different style of ensuring that the gold medal in the 800m was won by a Kenyan.
Kipkurui took the lead covering the first lap in 49.9 seconds. Kimwetich took over at 500m, before Kimutai came to the front with 250 m to go. By the time Hezekiel Sepeng (South Africa) and Algeria’s Aissa Dzabir Guerni accelerated in the last 120m, they could only overtake Kimwetich and Kipkurui. Kimutai won the race in 1:44.91. He was followed home by Guerni (1:45.32), Sepeng (1:45.58), Kipkurui (1:45.96) and Kimwetich 1:46.24.
Kenyan 400m hurdlers Erick Keter and Hillary Maritim looked sharp as they won the semi-final heats in 49.48 and 49.83 respectively.
Bouncing back from a bout of malaria that reeked havoc during the World Championships, Falilat Ogunkoya (Nigeria) won the 400m in 50.02 seconds. This is her first individual gold medal at an AAG meeting. Her first medal in an AAG was a bronze in the 100m (behind team-mates Mary Onyali and Tina Ihaegwem) in Nairobi, Kenya in 1987. She progressed to a silver medal in the 400m (behind teammate Fatima Yusuf) in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1995.
The 1994 world junior champions Olabisi Afolabi (Nigeria) took the silver medal. In the process she improved her career best of from 50.47 which she ran at the World Championships to 50.34. The vastly improved Ami Mbacke Thiam (Senegal) was third in 50.95.
"Nothing less than a gold medal would have satisfied me. We Nigerians easily win gold in relays and so the real test was in winning gold in an individual event. This challenge was all the more difficult as l was battling to regain my health after suffering from malaria last month." said Ogunkoya.
Dulecha Kutre gave Ethiopia its third gold medal of the AAG following her victory in the 1500m. She clocked 4:18.33, to finish ahead of Nouria Benida Merah (Algeria) and Jackline Maranga (Kenya) who were timed 4:18.69 and 4:19.31 respectively.
Tunisia earned their first gold medal in athletics when Monia Kari won the women’s discus in 57.22. The silver and bronze medals went to South Africans Lezelle Duvenage (54.55) and Elizna Naude (53.26).
Grace Umelo gave Nigeria its second medal of the day with a 6.60 effort in the long jump. Cameroon’s Francoise Mbanga Etone was runner up with 6.55m.
South Africa’s Charlene Lawrence needed a career best of 6.50m to secure the bronze medal. Her previous best was a 6.42 at the World Junior Championships last year.
Nigeria bagged two more gold medals when their men’s and women’s teams won the 4x100m relays. The women won their race in 43.28, while Madagascar were runners up in 43.98, ahead of Ghana (44.21). The men clocked 38.56, ahead of South Africa (38.88) and Cote d’Ivoire (39.09
Mark Ouma for the IAAF
ATHLETICS MEDALLIST AFTER DAY THREE (16.09.1999)
100m: 1Leonard Myles-Miles (Ghana) 9.99, 2 Francis Obikwelu (Nigerai) 10.01, 3 Frank Fredricks (Namibia) 10.10
400m: 1 Kennedy Ochieng (Kenya ) 44.77, 2 Clement Chukwu (Nigeria) 45.31, 3 Phillip Mokomana (Zimbabwe) 45.43
10000m: 1 Assefa Mezgebu (Ethiopia) 28:12.15, 2 David Chelule (Kenya) 28:13.71, 3 Habie Jifar (Ethiopia) 28:15.11
110m hurdles: 1 William Erese (Nigeria) 13.73, 2 Randriamihaja Berloz (Madagascar) 13.85, 3 Kehinde Aladefe (Nigeria) 13.86
800m:L 1 japhet Kimutai (Kenya) 1:44.91. 2 Aissa Dzabir Guerni (Algeria) 1:45.32, 3 Hezekiel Sepeng (South Africa) 1:45.58
3000m steeple chase: 1 Kipkurui Misoi (Kenya) 8:32.42, 2 Wilson Boit Kipketer (Kenya) 8:41.33, 3 Christopher Koskei (Kenya) 8:41.35
Long Jump: Hatem Mersal (Egypt) 8.09, 2 Teko Folligan (Togo) 8.00, 3 Mark Awere (Ghana) 7.96
Discus: 1 Frantz Kruger (South Africa) 61.02, 2 Frits Portgieter (South Africa) 60.59, 3 Glenn Conjungo (Central Africa Republic) 57 .09
Shot put: 1 Burger Lambrechts (South Africa) 19.50, 2 Janus Robberts (South Africa) 19.16, 3 Karel Potgieter (South Africa) 18.90
Hammer: 1 Chris Harmse (South Africa) 74.75, 2 Samir Haouam (Algeria) 65.80, 3 Yamen Abdelmonem (Egypt) 65.25
Decathlon: 1 Christo Blignaut (South Africa) 7727, 2 Anis Riahi (Tunisia) 7497, 3 Redovane Youcef (Algeria) 7401
4x100m relay: Nigeria 38.56, 2 South Africa 38.88, 3 Cote d’Ivoire 39.08
100: 1 Mary Nku (Nigeria) 11.03, 2 Leanie Mani (Cameroon) 11.24, 3 Endurance Ojokolo (Nigeria) 11.25
400m: 1 Faliliat Ogunkoya (Nigeria) 50.02, 2 Olabisi Afolabi (Nigeria) 50.34, 3 Ami Mbecke Thiam (Senegal) 50.95
400m hurdles: 1 Tacko Diuof (Senegal) 55.69, 2 Surita Febbraio (South Africa)57.11, 3 Onanuga Saidat (Nigeria) 58.34
1500m: 1 Dulecha Kutre (Ethiopia) 4:18.33, 2 Nouria Benida Mernsa (Algeria) 4:18.69, 3 Jackline Maranga (Kenya) 4:19.31
5000m: Ayelech Worku (Ethiopia) 15:38.22, 2 Elana Meyer (South Africa) 15:42.76, 3 Vivian Cheruiyot (Kenya) 15:42.79
Long Jump: 1 Grace Umelo (Nigeria) 6,60, 2 Francoise Mbang Etone (Cameroon) 6.55, 3 Charlene Lawrence (South Africa) 6.50
High Jump: 1 Hestrie Storbeck-Cloete (South Africa) 1.96, 2 Irene Tiendrebeogo (Burkina Faso) 1.85, 3 Phillipa Erasmus (South Africa) 1.80
Pole Vault: 1 Rika Erasmus (South Africa) 3.60, 2 Elmarie Gerryts (South Africa) 3.60
Javelin: 1Liezel Roux (South Africa) 49.38, 2 Aida Sellam (Tunisia) 48.91, 3 Sorochukwa Ihuafo (Nigeria) 48.24
Discus: 1 Monia Kari (Tunisia) 57.22, 2 Lezelle Duvenage (South Africa) 54.55, 3 Elizna Naude (Southg Africa) 53.25
4x100m relay: 1 Nigeria 43.28, 2 Madagascar 43.98, 3 Ghana 44.21