Athletics

How Kenyans helped Uganda win Olympic steeple title

Kenyans helped Uganda win Olympic

Kenya will have to wait longer to clinch the women’s steeplechase title at the Olympic Games after the two Kenyan representatives failed in their bid for the top crown on Wednesday. Hyvin Kiyeng could only clinch bronze after coming home third while world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech finished seventh.

Kiyeng clocked 9:05.39 in third with Uganda’s Peruth Chemutai winning gold after a spirited last 300m to topple America’s Courtney Frierichs. Chepkoech faded away with three laps to go and could only manage a seventh place finish in 9:16.33.

Speaking after the race, Kiyeng disclosed that they had planned to make the race fast alongside Ugandan Chemutai and had told her if she felt strong enough she should go for the title.

“We had talked before the race with Beatrice and the lady from Uganda and we had agreed to make the tempo fast. I told the Ugandan that since Beatrice and I were struggling with injury, if she felt her body was strong enough she could just go and take the gold,” Kiyeng disclosed after the race.

She added; “You know it is better when the title is just here close to us than if it goes to Europe or America. So I am happy that she won and I am also happy that I clinched bronze. For me this was a good achievement because I had been struggling with injury.”

Hyvin Kiyeng celebrates her bronze. PHOTO/Reuters

Kiyeng disclosed that a previous hamstring strain recurred during training on Tuesday and during the race she felt it become tighter.

“I had to maintain a steady pace because sometimes if you push too much, you will tear the hamstring. So for me, the bronze in itself is a good achievement for me,” Kiyeng, who won silver in Rio 2016 said.

She has also disclosed that this was her last race on track.

“I don’t think I will be at the Commonwealth Games or the World Championships next year. This was my last time on track. Injuries have really dogged me and you know in steeplechase if you continue running with injuries, you will end your career,” she disclosed.

Meanwhile, Chepkoech has disclosed that multiple injuries stopped her from going for the title. The World Record holder admitted she wanted to pull out of the race after just three laps but decided to stay on to motivate compatriot Kiyeng.

Beatrice Chepkoech leading her heat

“Today the injuries were really painful and worse than the heats. I just decided to push myself and remain in the race so that at least when Hyvin sees me on the screen, she will still be motivated to go. At least I finished the race and Hyvin won bronze,” Chepkoech said.

Chepkoech says she has been carrying a hamstring strain, lower back and Achilles tendon injuries throughout the season. But she has vowed to be back stronger.

“I will be back to defend my world title next year and I will be there at the Commonwealth Games,” beamed Chepkoech.

Chepkoech and Kiyeng had stuck to the front of the pack for most of the opening laps of the race but with three to go, Chepkoech began to fade off.

American Frierichs then took on a brave move, pushing up the pace to open a 10-metre gap between her and the chasing pack. But, she could not hold on for long. At the bell, Uganda’s Chemutai responded, chasing her down as she slowly closed down the gap. In the final 200m, the Ugandan galloped away into the lead and created a good distance between first and second.

Behind, Kiyeng was battling to get into the medal brackets and she ultimately did at the last water hurdle, going past Ethiopian Mekides Abebe.

Chemutai clocked 9:01.45 in winning the race, a new Ugandan National Record while the American Frerichs clocked 9:04.79. So fast was the race that three other athletes set national records while one had a personal best.

USA’s Emma Coburn, the 2017 World Champion was disqualified after appearing to be involved in tripping.

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