Julius Yego banished two years of hurt and re-wrote the record books by winning Kenya’s first-ever global field gold medal – taking the World Javelin Championship with a breathtaking third farthest throw of all-time in Beijing.
It was a night that started burning slowly then erupted into unbridled glory for the man dubbed the YouTube athlete. In years to come it is now likely to be Kenya’s, surely now Africa’s, finest ever javelin thrower that ambitious young exponents of the sport will Google in order to gain tips on technique.
Agonisingly edged out of the medals and into fourth place in Moscow two years ago, the 26-year-old Commonwealth Champion’s third-round throw of 92.72m has only ever been bettered by Finland’s Aki Parviainen and one of his all-time heroes Jan Zelezny, who remains way out in front on 98.48m.
At the same time Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi also of Kenya claimed victory in the women’s 3,000m steeplechase at the world championships in Beijing on Wednesday. Jepkemoi timed 9min 19.11sec to pip Tunisia Habiba Ghribi, who clocked 9:19.24 for silver.
Germany’s Gesa Felicitas Krause ran a personal best of 9:19.25 for bronze. Yego was the target of the world’s press, taking an hour to get through eager journalists after his historic victory but speaking quietly but emotionally he reflected: “In Moscow I was almost winning bronze but I was beaten by Dmitri Tarabin (Russia) on the last throw.
“Obviously I was disappointed but that made me determined to come back and do better. “Last night I thought anything is possible and when my first two throws were not good I went and spoke with my coach and we discussed what was wrong.
“Petteri (Piironen – his Finnish coach) has been an inspiration to me and I could not have done this without him. “We spent an extra week together before the championships ironing out a few of my problems.”
For most of the first three rounds it looked likely that Egypt’s Ihab Abdelrahman El Sayed might steal the glory and African bragging rights with his second throw, a season’s best 88.88m, taking the lead.
But after fouling and a fairly modest 82.42m Yego launched a monstrous throw, over 10 metres further, which was measured at 92.72m – the third farthest mark of all-time and the gold medal was secured.
A thrilled Yego had few doubts and pointed out: “I always fear Tero (Pitkamaki) – he always throws big but not over 92 metres!”
Now clear of silver medallist Abdelrahman and with Pitkamaki, who eventually settled for bronze, unable to match the massive lead with his remaining throws, Yego also became only the second man from his vast continent to win the world title after South Africa’s Marius Corbett, who won in Athens in 1997.
The jubilant Kenyan resisted the temptation to try again until his last attempt – the final throw of the competition – when he once more sent the javelin soaring through the Beijing night air and over the 90-metre mark, only for the throw to be called a foul.