It was a marvelous seven-star performance for Kenya as the country claimed its maiden overall title at the World Athletics Championships on Sunday in Beijing, China.
A majestic Asbel Kiprop wrapped up the historic performance when he stormed to a third consecutive victory in the men’s 1,500m race, a feat that brought the packed 80,000-seater Bird’s Nest Stadium to its feet.
Kiprop, who was at the tail of the pack at the bell and with 200 metres to go, slowly worked his way up, hitting the front with less than 20 metres to go before winning in 3 minutes 34.40 seconds.
Elijah Manangoi wrapped up a 1-2 finish for Kenya just like in the 2011 Daegu championships, dipping his head ahead of Moroccan Abdalaati Iguider to snatch silver in 3:34.63. Iguider took bronze in 3:34.67.
Kiprop and Manangoi’s feat, which was preceded by Helah Kiprop’s silver medal in the women’s marathon in the morning, saw Kenya top the standings with 16 medals in total; seven gold, six silver and three bronze, finishing ahead of heavyweights Jamaica who were second with 7-2-3 and third-placed United States with 5-6-6.
Kenya’s previous best ever showing at the World Championships was during the 2011 edition in Daegu, South Korea, where the team claimed 17 medals; seven gold, six silver and four bronze, to finish third overall behind the US and Russia.
However, the haul from Daegu surpassed Beijing’s by one bronze.
The only other outing that came close to rivalling that performance was the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, where athletics won the country 14 medals; six gold, four silver and four bronze.
Vivian Cheruiyot gave Kenya its first gold medal when she recaptured the 10,000m title she won at the 2011 Daegu Worlds.
Olympic champion and World record holder David Rudisha would then strike gold after two previous injury-plagued seasons. Nicholas Bett then made history as the first Kenyan to win a sprint event at the World Championships with the 400m hurdles gold medal.
Ezekiel Kemboi then chalked an unprecedented four consecutive World 3,000m steeplechase titles as Julius Yego’s pioneering exploits in javelin went a notch higher when he became the first Kenyan to win a major field event.
Hyvin Kiyeng was on top of her game to ensure that the women’s 3,000m steeplechase title won by Milcah Chemo for the first time in 2013 in Moscow was retained by Kenya.
In his congratulatory message to the Kenyan team, President Uhuru Kenyatta said on his Twitter handle: “Our young people have shown that they are the best in the world.”
In a statement to newsrooms later in the evening, he said:
“On behalf of an adoring and grateful nation and my government, I congratulate our athletics team for bravely going out, conquering valiantly and returning home in triumph. Hongera.”
He said his government’s commitment to empower the youth had been vindicated “by the fine showing in Beijing”.
And Deputy President William Ruto said: “We are grateful for your talent, your dedication and your inspiration.”
Cord leader Raila Odinga also sent a congratulatory message to the team.
“I offer my congratulations to Team Kenya for the remarkable run that has seen our nation open a new chapter in athletics history books by emerging on top of the world,” he said in a statement.
“There is no prouder moment to be a Kenyan.”
By Sunday evening, #HotbedofChampions and Asbel Kiprop were trending on Twitter as Kenyans used social media to celebrate the national heroes.
Men: David Rudisha (800m); Asbel Kiprop (1,500m); Nicholas Bett (400m hurdles); Ezekiel Kemboi (3,000m steeplechase); Julius Yego (Javelin)
Women: Vivian Cheruiyot (10,000m); Hyvin Kiyeng (3,000m steeplechase)
Men: Elijah Manangoi (1,500m); Caleb Mwangangi (5,000m), Geoffrey Kamworor (10,000m); Conseslus Kipruto (3,000m steeplechase)
Women: Faith Chepng’etich (1,500m); Helah Kiprop (marathon)
Men: Paul Tanui (10,000m), Brimin Kipruto (3,000m steeplechase)
Women: Eunice Sum (800m)