/ 27 August 2011

Kenya mines first gold at World Champs

Policewoman Edna Kiplagat was left with a skinned knee but the broadest of smiles after she survived a late fall to lead a Kenyan sweep of the women’s marathon medals as the 13th athletics world championships got under way on Saturday.

Daegu’s spectacular stadium set against a backdrop of mist-covered velvet mountains came to life as heats kicked off, but it was on the streets of the South Korean city that the first gold was won.

Kiplagat, with her long, languid style, broke clear of compatriots Priscah Jeptoo and Sharon Cherop over the last two kilometres of the race to win her first world title in two hours 28 minutes and 43 seconds.

“This is my first championship … I did not have any special strategy,” the 31-year-old grinned. “I fell down at the … refreshment station — my teammate Cherop hit my leg by accident. I was afraid I had hurt myself but I am okay.

“I will celebrate this title by going shopping,” she smiled.

There were few smiles in the Australian camp, however, as world and Olympic champion Steve Hooker failed to qualify for the pole vault final.

Having declared himself fit but undercooked after injuries delayed his start to the season, Hooker failed three attempts to clear 5.50m.

The 29-year-old’s leap of 6.06m indoors in the 2009 season remains the second highest in history behind retired world record holder Sergei Bubka.

On Saturday he never actually jumped, however, running through the box on all three attempts.

“My body was fine, mentally it wasn’t there,” Hooker told reporters. “I had no confidence in what I was doing out there. It’s tough to try and get a good jump when you feel that way.

“No excuse for what happened today, I would expect more of myself,” he added.

Kenya’s world record holder David Rudisha sauntered through qualifying in his 800m heat and left the track giving a big thumbs-up.

In the decathlon, defending champion Trey Hardee held a 15 point lead over favourite and US teammate Ashton Eaton after the morning’s three events.

The world’s fastest man Usain Bolt opens his campaign in the evening heats and is a strong favourite to retain his world title in a field stripped of the injured Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell. The final is on Sunday.

Allyson Felix is another highlight of the opening day as she kicks off her campaign for double gold in the heats of the 400m.

Saturday’s second and final gold medal will go to the winner of the women’s 10 000m. Kenya’s cross-country star Vivian Cheruiyot is expected to thrive in the conditions, but she is the slowest of the major contenders. – Reuters