Undisputed 1,500m king Asbel Kiprop rose from his sick bed to land a third consecutive world championship and ensure Kenya finished top of the medal table in Beijing.
Kiprop’s success took Kenya’s final tally to seven golds – the same as Jamaica while equalling their 2011 haul from Daegu – and Elijah Manangoi’s stunning silver took the grand total to 16 for Kenya to emerge the leading nation at the championships for the first time in history, ending United States of America and Jamaica’s dominance.
The 2008 Olympic Champion Kiprop did, as he has in each qualifying round, burst through from nowhere to leave everyone in his wake with a 51-second final lap to take the title. But unlike the heats and semi-finals Kiprop admitted that he was far from confident in his ability to repeat the feat for a third time in four days.
“I have had flu since the semi-finals and although I came here and did something yesterday, I was not confident like usual,” said the 26-year-old who also won in Moscow and South Korea and has the world lead in 2015. “I told the others Kenyans to work extra hard because I was not reliable today but I felt strong with 300 metres to go.
“I wasn’t worried because I saw the other guys were well placed to win for Kenya but, although it was really hard in the last 100 metres, I’m happy that I did. “I’m happy that I know how to run from the front, from the middle and from the back.”
Kiprop’s overt superiority inevitably gives rise to suggestions that Hitchem El Guerrouj’s world record of 3:26.00, which has stood since 1998, could soon come under threat and the Kenyan metric mile expert and came within seven tenths of that mark just over six weeks ago.
“Last year I mentioned the world record and it was a mistake because everybody has mentioned it and expected it,” commented Kiprop. “But it will come – I almost got it in Monaco. “I feel I am still getting better and and to complete my legacy, I must break a world record!”
Behind Kiprop there was a bonus as 22-year-old Manangoi came with a late charge to snatch silver on the line by a mere four hundredths of a second from Morocco’s Abdalaati Iguider.
Manangoi, who used the music of Rhianna to relax in the build up to the final solo track race of the championships, said: “I was running for one of the medals and I knew I had a strong kick.
“I didn’t lose faith because I know I’ve run 400m in 46 seconds and was confident I could get past the others. “It’s my second major championship after the Commonwealths and now I’m the silver medallist from a world championship, it will encourage me to work hard towards Rio and beyond.”
Silas Kiplagat, the 2010 Commonwealth Champion, held a medal position until the dying metres but was eventually run out of it into fifth, whilst teenager Timothy Cheruiyot, just 19, who trains with Managoi, was thrilled with his debut world championship seventh place.
If Kenya finished the solo races in style there was massive disappointment in the women’s 3,000m which came immediately prior to Kiprop’s triumph.