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Zakayo eyes World title, gives Kenya hope of ending 5,000m drought

Joel Omotto and IAAF @PeopleSports11

Kenya’s wait for a first gold medal in the men’s 5,000m since 2005 could be slowly coming to an end. This is due to the emergence and subsequent sparkle in form for teenage sensation Edward Zakayo.

The 16-year-old Form Three student at Kapsait Secondary School in Elgeyo-Marakwet County added a third major gold medal to his name in just one year when he stormed to victory on the final day of the Africa Athletics Championship in Asaba, Nigeria on Sunday.

Third at the bell behind Yemane Haileselassie of Eritrea and Ethiopian Getaneh Molla, Zakayo bolted off the final turn to finish unchallenged, crossing the line with his tongue wagging and arms spread wide, in 13:48.58.

With the victory, Zakayo—who burst onto the scene when he won the World U18 title in Nairobi in July last year—sealed a memorable hat-trick as he had just clinched the world U20 crown over the distance in Trampere, Finland last month.

“I used the strategy to run with my competitors and maintain the pace, which I did, and then to pull away,” Zakayo told IAAF after his victory in Asaba on Sunday.

Zakayo seems to be transitioning well from junior ranks and after tasting a maiden win at senior level, he wants more. “I want to win the world championship.

But I must work even harder first,” added Zakayo of a dream most Kenyan athletes have failed to realise since Benjamin Limo’s triumph at the 2005 Worlds in Helsinki, Finland.

Another athlete who seems to have taken the world by storm is freshly-minted 3,000m steeplechase world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech.

In the rarest of forms, Chepkoech, 27, led a medal sweep for Kenya as she dominated the race en route to an 8:59.88 run, near the top of the short list of fastest un-paced performances in history. “After the world record and now the African title, this will open many doors for me,” she said after joining other winners in sealing a spot on Team Africa for next month’s IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava, the Czech Republic.

As Kenya completed the continental assignment with 19 medals, 11 gold (six won on Sunday), six silver and two bronze, there was a surprise win that might also give the country hope going forward.

An inspired quartet of Aron Koech, Alphas Kishoyian, Jared Momanyi and Emmanuel Korir brought the curtain down on Asaba 2018 with victory in the 4x400m relay in 3:00.92, a championships record.

With South Africa second in 3:03.50 followed by host Nigeria in 3:04.88, Kenyan’s victory was all the more sweet as sprints have proved a mountain for them to climb over the years and maybe there is more to come at next year’s World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

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