They came, saw and conquered! Such must be the sense of pride and accomplishment coursing through the veins of the Kenyan pair of David Rudisha and Nicholas Bett, whose exploits on Day 4 of the IAAF World Championships, shot the East African country to the top of the medals table in Beijing with a total of nine medals.
It was evident even from the heats that Bett was a man on a mission; drawn in Lane 9 in his very first race of the competition, he pulled off the task admirably well, winning with a time of 48.37s, which was the fastest time overall in the first round. He was 2nd in the semis, and was once again placed in Lane 9 ahead of the final, with compatriot Boniface Mucheru Tumuti also making it to the final.
That notwithstanding, Bett scaled the hurdles to power to Kenya’s first medal ever in the 400m Hurdles. He took the title with a World Lead (WL) of 47.79s, making it the second time the African Championships Bronze medallist is breaking the 48s barrier this year. He becomes the second African after Zambia’s Samuel Matete to accomplish this feat at the World Championships.
Matete, who is the African Record Holder in the event (47.10s), achieved this performance at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo where he clocked 47.64s ahead of Jamaica’s Winthrop Graham (47.74s) and Kriss Akabusi of Great Britain (47.86s). He went on to win Silver medals in the event in 1993 and 1995 respectively. He was also a Silver medallist at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and his African Record ranks fourth on the all-time list.
Denis Kudryavtsev of Russia finished 2nd behind Bett with a National Record (NR) of 48.05s, while 25-year old Jeffery Gibson of the Bahamas followed with an NR too of 48.17s. Two-time World Champion Kerron Clement of the USA placed 4th with a Season’s Best (SB) of 48.18s, as Bett’s team mate, Tumuti finished 5th in 48.33s.
Other Africans who have won medals in the event previously are South Africa’s duo of Llewellyn Herbert (Silver in 1997) and LJ Van Zyl who took Bronze in Daegu 2011 behind Dai Greene of Great Britain and Javier Culson. Van Zyl was also in action in Beijing, but didn’t advance to the final after a 6th place finish in the semis.
The second Kenyan star performer of the night was none other than the World Record (WR) holder in the 800m, David Rudisha who arrived Beijing in a form that was still a far-cry from his record-breaking abilities as exhibited in 2012. It was unsure if he would reclaim the title he won in Daegu four years ago, following threats posed by Botswana’s Nijel Amos and World Leader, Amel Tuka.
However Amos made a shocking exit in the semis after failing to finish among the Top 2, while defending champion Mohammed Aman was disqualified for an infraction, conveniently setting the stage for the Kenyan to bounce back in style. This he did, running a powerful race as he approached the home straight, clocking 1:45.84s to finish ahead of Poland’s Adam Kszczot (1:46.08) and Tuka (1:46.30s).
The two other Kenyans in the race, national champion and Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich and Alfred Kipketer placed 4th and 8th respectively with 1:46.35s and 1:47.66. Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot and Ezekiel Kemboi also struck GOLD for Kenya on Day 3 of the World Championships, winning the women’s 10,000m and men’s 3000m Steeplechase respectively.