Zakayo, Gathimba win Kenya’s first medals in Commonwealth Games

Keith McGhie in Gold Coast @peoplesport11

Teenage sensation Edward Zakayo salvaged some pride for Kenya with a battling bronze medal but was unable to trouble the race for gold as Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei comprehensively won the Commonwealth Games 5,000m title yesterday.

Caleb Ndiku had taken the crown four years ago in Glasgow but few times did any of the three Kenyan competitors look like emulating him in the humid Gold Coast sunshine.

Zakayo, 16, joined his compatriots in complaining that they had not been able to get the food they were used to in Australia and were also affected by the heat having come down from training at altitude.

“I am a little disappointed as I was targeting a gold medal,” said the supremely talented youngster, who claimed silver in last year’s World Under-18 Championships in Nairobi.

“At 16, I have to still be happy with my medal at senior level but the Ugandans and even Mohammed Ahmed (from Canada) are very strong now. I will now go and focus on the upcoming African and Junior World Championships. I must go away and work on both my endurance and speed,” he added.  Pre-race favourite Cheptegei powered to victory with a dominant final three laps, breaking Zakayo and eventually Somalian-born Ahmed, who spent 10 of his first 11 years living in Kenya.

The Ugandan’s winning time was 13:50.83, almost two seconds clear of Ahmed, with Zakayo clocking 13:54.06.

Kipkorir finished ninth in 14:13.97 with Bett, who led the early stages of what was a notably slow race, trailing in two places further back in 14:18.80.

Earlier, on the roads, Kenyan race walking received a major boost when Samuel Ireri Gathimba won bronze, Kenya’s first medal of the ‘Club’ Games, in the men’s 20km event. Gathimba finished 17 seconds behind the winner Dane Bird-Smith of Australia in a time of one hour, 19 minutes and 51 seconds. Now the 30-year-old from Nyeri is setting his sights on further glory at the African Championships in Nigeria later this year. Kenyan national record holder Mark Otieno qualified second in his heat of the 100m but was squeezed out of a final slot, managing only fifth in his semi-final later in a time of 10.37. Boniface Mweresa escaped a false start with a warning in the 400m heats before qualifying in third place.

Former rugby sevens star Collins Omae also scraped into today’s strangely named semi-finals, which consist of three races, as a fastest ‘loser’. Kenya’s third hope Alexander Sampao withdrew with a hamstring injury.

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