Kenya’s latest gold medallist Alfred Barkach has said of how his tactics saw him silence his rivals to win the Africa Cross-Country Championship senior men’s title in the Algerian city of Chlef on Saturday.
The national cross country silver medallist clinched his first major career gold after seeing off stiff competition from compatriot Julius Kogo and Ugandan Thomas Ayeko, cutting the tape in 30:47 to fit into the shoes of national defending champion Geoffrey Kamworor. “I had tested Ayeko’s strength in the initial laps and in my mind, I knew I was better.
I waited for the final lap and increased my speed thus wearing him out and he could not match our finishing kick which is a tactic we have trained for,” said Barkach.
Barkach, Kogo, Emmanuel Bor, Ayeko and Phillip Kipyeko as well as Ethiopia’s Enyew Mokonnen formed a breakaway leading pack in the third lap but in the final lap, only the three top finishers were competing. Ayeko was leading for the better part of the final lap, before Barkach and Kogo beat the Ugandan in a sprint finish.
“This is our race as Kenyans and we train for nothing short of gold. I came here ready to live up to people’s expectations and my race tactics paid off,” added Barkach after the win adding that Kenya’s dominance is a result of hard work in training.
In the women’s senior race, national defending champion Stacy Ndiwa fell by the way side as she finished fourth in a race won by youngster Celliphine Chespol, the reigning World Cross-Country junior bronze medallist. Chespol, who finished third at the national trials, almost spoiled the party after opening a 17-second lead in the penultimate lap ahead of the rest only to be told she has a lap to go.
Her competitors reduced the lead to just three seconds as she cut the tape in 35.10 behind Margaret Chelimo. Ndiwa’s efforts to make it an all Kenyan podium sweep proved futile as she was out-sprinted by Ethiopia’s Yeshi Kalayy who finished a second ahead of Iten-based Ndiwa.
The script was not different in the junior men’s 8km race as Rhonex Kipruto took advantage of his superior finishing kick to defeat national champion Stanley Waithaka to take gold in while Solomon Berihu of Ethiopia finished third, two seconds behind Waithaka.