Keith McGhie in Gold Coast @peoplesport11
World champions Elijah Manang’oi and Hellen Obiri led Kenyan one-twos to on a successful final afternoon of track and field action in the Commonwealth Games Gold Coast on Saturday.
Manang’oi led the team into the Carrara Stadium carrying the national flag at the opening ceremony and was still a commanding presence at the front when the individual events finished and he took 1,500m gold.
Obiri was even more dominant as the women’s 5,000m came to a conclusion, powering away in trademark arm-pumping style to go some way to making up for last month’s Indoor World Championship disappointment when she was run out of the medals and finished fourth.
The Kenyans always looked likely to dominate the ‘metric mile’ as 2017 Diamond League winner Timothy Cheruiyot and World Junior champion Kumari Taki joined Manang’oi at the front from the gun and were still set for a clean sweep with 200m remaining.
But youngster Taki, still only 18, was overhauled leaving Manang’oi and Cheruiyot to fight for gold, the Kenyan athletics captain proving the strongest down the home straight with Cheruiyot having to settle for silver, just as he had at the London World Championships last August.
“I was 12th in the 2014 Commonwealth Games but I didn’t lose hope, so I went back home, trained harder, got injured in Rio 2016 Olympics but I still didn’t lose hope. I’ve changed my training season by season which has helped me win gold medals. I now want to focus on beating my personal best,” said Manang’oi.
It was a similar story of dominance in the women’s 5,000m with Obiri taking early charge of a very slow opening in the hot mid-afternoon sun. Chelimo and Cherono quickly joined her and the Kenyans gradually began to string out the field.
The trio continued together until Cherono dropped off the back just after halfway. Immediately Obiri and Chelimo increased the pressure and, with four laps to go, the gold medal was already a race between the two red-vested ‘class acts’ of the field.
After sharing the work, Obiri led off of the final bend and pulled away to win in a modest 15:13.11. Kenya almost finished the track and field programme with a surprise medal in the men’s 4x400m Relay where Boniface Mweresa and Aron Koech ran staggering second and third legs to promote their team from a distant fourth to joint leaders at the bell.
But after a muddled change-over, Nicholas Bett was unable to maintain the momentum and the Kenyans were eventually run out into fifth place, only to be disqualified for impeding others exchanging the baton.