Nairobi, KenyaKenyan marathoner Wilson Kiprop won a bitterly-contested men’s 10,000m on the opening day of the 17th CAA Safaricom African Athletics Championships at the Nyayo stadium in Nairobi, Kenya.
In the other two finals on day 1, Burger Lambrechts led a South African podium sweep in the men’s shot put as the rainbow nation stormed to the top of the medal standings ahead of host nation Kenya. And Senegal’s Amy Sene caused a major upset by beating Egypt’s defending champion Marwa Hussein in the women’s hammer.
Kiprop holds off Kipsiro in the men’s 10,000m
With just two finals on the opening day and the men’s 10,000m representing the host nation’s best chance of medals, a capacity crowd of 20,000 filled the Nyayo stadium in anticipation of the “race of the day” and they were not to be disappointed as 23-year old Kiprop held off the challenge of the All-African Games 5000m champion Moses Kipsiro to win gold in 27:32.91.
The pre-race hype had billed the contest to be another battle between Kenya and their East African neighbors Ethiopia, but unlike two years ago where Gebregziabher Gebremariam led a clean sweep of the medals on home soil, the Ethiopians could not offer any resistance.
In the absence of Gebremariam and his fellow medalists Ibrahim Jeylan and Eshetu Wondimu, Ethiopia’s medal hopes lay on two-time Olympic 10,000m silver medalist Sileshi Sihine. But after losing ground on a breakaway group of the three Kenyans in the race - Kiprop, Matthew Kisorio, and Geofrey Mutai - and Uganda;s Kipsiro, Sihine pulled out of the race with eight laps left with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.
Two laps earlier, the Kenyan trio and Kipsiro pulled away from the Ethiopians. But after Sihine dropped out and the Ethiopian challenge faded, Kiprop and Mutai exchanged the lead in the succeeding laps in order to drop Kipsiro. However, they only succeeded in dropping off their compatriot Kisorio with Kipsiro comfortably running just behind the front pair at the bell.
The trio ran side-by-side going into the final lap, but Kiprop kicked first with 200 metres to go and despite the gallant efforts of Kipsiro to play catch up, the Paris Half Marathon winner held on to take his first African title.
“I am happy about my first African title,” Kiprop said after the race. “The plan was to cooperate with my team mates and then see who could win the race. It is really great and I am extremely happy.”
Lambrechts takes Shot Put title by 1 cm
The day’s other final, the men’s Shot Put, was equally too close to call until the final stages where veteran 37-year old South African Burger Lambrechts took victory with his very last throw of the contest.
His compatriot Roelof Potgieter led after the first round with a throw of 17.74m and further extended his lead on his fourth throw of 18.62m. At this point, only Lambrechts had thrown further than 18m. Potgieter fouled on his fifth attempt, but looked assured of victory before Lambrechts pulled back the years with a throw 18.63m to take his second African title, twelve years after his first in Dakar, Senegal.
“I think it was an interesting competition today,” said the soft-spoken Lambrechts. “The lead changed I think four times and it was very competitive. I was hoping to throw around 19 metres, but the circle was dusty and slippery. I am very happy about my performance here and hope to hang around as long as I can.”
Sene shocks Hussein in women’s hammer
The surprise result of the day was reserved in the women’s Hammer Throw where Senegal’s Amy Sene threw a national record of 64.11m to take victory ahead of Egypt’s Marwa Ahmed Hussein (62.36m), who has won African titles in each of the last four editions of the African championships. Togo’s Florence Edem Apefa Ezeh also improved her own national record to win bronze in 57.94m.
Favorites advance in qualifiers, Bourrada leads Decathlon
Apart from the day’s two finals, it was a busy day of heats and qualification rounds in the sprints, the 800m, and field events.
In the men’s 100m, Nigeria’s 2007 All-African Games champion Obinna Metu (10.37) was the fastest in the first round with his compatriots Ogho-Ogene Egwero, Benjamin Adukwu, and Ghana’s 2000 African Champion Aziz Zakari also easily making it through to to the semifinals. Zakari (10.16) and Nigeria's Ogho-Ogene (10.17) went on to lead all qualifiers in the evening's semi-finals.
Nigeria’s pre-race favorite Blessing Okagbare was fastest in the women’s 100m semifinals ahead of compatriot and defending champion Damola Osayemi and Agnes Osazuwa.
Kenya’s 2007 world champion Alfred Kirwa (1:48.66) was the fastest in qualifier in the first round of the men’s 800m, but compatriots David Rudisha (1:50.51) and Jackson Kivuva (1:49.93) easily cruised through their heats. South Africa’s World champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi had a bit of a scare in his heat, but qualified in third place.
Defending women’s 400m champion Amantle Montsho, South Africa’s World and Olympic Long Jump silver medalist Godfrey Khotso Mokoena, Nigeria’s defending men’s 400m bronze medallist were impressive as they lead in their opening rounds.
And Algeria’s defending champion Larbi Bourrada is the overnight leader in the men’s Decathlon with 4312 points after the first day. He is followed by compatriot Mourad Souissi (4119 pts) ahead of Tunisian Hamdi Dhouibi (4021 pts).
Elshadai Negash for the IAAF
Click here for RESULTS