Keith McGhie in Gold Coast @peoplesport11
Beatrice Chepkoech struck silver to add Kenya’s fourth medal of the Commonwealth Games but was unable to prevent South African powerhouse Caster Semenya claiming the women’s 1,500m gold at the end of a rain-dampened night in Gold Coast, Australia yesterday.
Chepkoech and the other 13 athletes were forced to push aside the pre-race disruption of a problem with the starting equipment which caused an embarrassing delay of several minutes.
When the gun did sound, the 26-year-old Kenyan’s bravely took her traditional position at the front, setting a quick pace but pulling the others around with her.
At the bell she still led but Semenya came storming past with 200m to go and then it was about guts for the former steeplechaser and national indoor record holder at the distance, as she gritted her teeth and held off a late challenge from bronze medallist Melissa Courtney from Wales.
All three podium placers set new personal bests with Semenya also smashing Hellen Obiri’s Games record from Glasgow four years ago with a time of 4:00.71. Chepkoech also reduced her lifetimes best to 4:03.09, while Courtney was just 35 hundredths of a second further back. Kenya’s other finalist Mary Wangari Kuria finished ninth in 4:05.88.
Meanwhile, Maximila Imali stormed into the final of the women’s 400m with a start to finish semi-final victory in 51.52 seconds. Gladys Musyoki and Veronica Mutua were unable to join her, finishing only seventh and eighth in their respective qualifiers.
Elsewhere, Gilbert Koech continued his remarkable development as a decathlete by following Monday’s five personal best performances with three more best ever marks at 110m Hurdles (15.63), Discus (40.80m) and Pole Vault (3.30m) yesterday.
His only ‘blemishes’ were in the Javelin, which was partly held in torrential rain and where his throw of 58.27m was a mere 70cm down on his lifetime best.
The understandably tiring 28-year-old Kenyan clocked 4:31.82, over seven seconds outside his quickest for the final 1,500m to still amass a huge personal best of 7,009 points.
Koech finished last of the eight athletes who completed the gruelling two-day ultimate test of all-round athletic ability. “I am so happy to be only the second Kenyan to get over 7,000 points and the first since 1982 which was also in Australia, in Brisbane,” said Koech.