Best Of 2018: Kenya's Roller Coaster Ride At Gold Coast Commonwealth Games

Dec 19 - by Mutwiri Mutuota for SportPesa News

Wycliffe Kinyamal, Christine Ongare and Samuel Gathimba starred for their country at the April 4 to 15 event in Australia amid a performance slammed by critics

Wycliffe Kinyamal (right) raises his hands to celebrate winning the men 800m Commonwealth Games Gold on April 12 in Gold Coast, Austria. PHOTO/File

  • Having blazed to the top of the track and field medal charts during the preceding Delhi 2010 and Glasgow 2014 editions of the Club Games, Gold Coast 2018 did not go down favourably in the annals of Kenyan sporting history
  • However, the track and field star of Gold Coast 2018 as far as Team Kenya was concerned was the unheralded Wycliffe Kinyamal who announced his arrival to the world by bagging Kenya’s first gold at the event
  • In Boxing, another debutant, Christine ‘Mamushka’ Ongare also stole the show in Gold Coast when she won bronze in the women Flyweight (51kg), having travelled to Australia among the least talked-about in a squad of 11 ‘Hit Squad’ boxers


NAIROBI, Kenya- In the absence of an Olympics or the IAAF World Championships, the April 4 to 15 Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia provided the global platform for the celebrated Kenyan track and field athletes to excel this year.

Having blazed to the top of the track and field medal charts during the preceding Delhi 2010 and Glasgow 2014 editions of the Club Games, Gold Coast 2018 did not go down favourably in the annals of Kenyan sporting history.

However, Australia did offer the country a glimpse of future super stars in the sport that has catapulted the country to worldwide recognition in an event where Team Kenya minted 17 medals, 17 medals- four gold, seven silver and six bronze.

Gold Coast also marked the first National Olympic Committee-Kenya (NOCK) senior competition the country took part under the stewardship of revered distance running legend, Paul Kibii Tergat, who took over the organisation in September 2017.

It was the fourth time in her Commonwealth Games history that Kenya returned home with four gold medals following the Kingston 1966, Brisbane 1982 and Manchester 2002 as the country slumped to 14th overall, trailing South Africa (sixth) and Nigeria (ninth) in the African rankings.

While the red carpet would have been laid out by some countries and national holidays declared following such a performance, the class of Gold Coast 2018 and Tergat made a low-key return home bereft of pomp and fanfare. 

“I’m happy with the performance. Based on the standards that Kenyans have set themselves, they feel this is way below but we need to remember that the timing of these games, the sportsmen had not prepared themselves,” Tergat remarked at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport upon arrival from Australia.

Some elite runners giving Gold Coast a wide berth or the competition running earlier than the traditional start of the track and field season but most believed Kenya possesses depth in talent that would have mitigated the shortcomings.

Only athletes and boxing, out of the 15 disciplines that took part in a team of 136 competitors brought medals home.

Kinyamal stars

In athletics, World champions, Elijah Manangoi (men 1500m) who carried the country’s flag as captain, Conseslus Kipruto (men 3000m steeplechase) and Hellen Obiri (women 5000m) added Commonwealth gold to their expanding resumes.

However, the track and field star of Gold Coast 2018 as far as Team Kenya was concerned was the unheralded Wycliffe Kinyamal who announced his arrival to the world by bagging Kenya’s first gold at the event.

Kinyamal reclaimed the Club Games title Kenya lost to Botswana star Nijel Amos at Glasgow 2014 when he stopped the clock at 1:45.11 on the ninth day of the competition, to spark collective relief in a country that had seen its ambitions on stamping her authority in track and field dim with every passing day of action.

Kinyamal, an athlete many Kenyans have never heard of ahead of Gold Coast, shot to the top of the social media trending charts and almost broke the Internet in the aftermath of his golden performance with the highest office in the land paying tribute.

“Well done Wycliffe Kinyamal for winning the first Gold for Team Kenya in the Commonwealth Games men’s 800 meters. Wishing the entire team all the best,” President Uhuru Kenyatta wrote on.

The stand out shocker of Gold Coast was when a Jamaican floored a couple of Kenyans to the women 3000m steeplechase title.

With the 1-2 in sight as pre-event favourites, World Under 20 champion, Cellephine Chepteek Chespol and Glasgow 2014 champion, Purity Cherotich surged to the lead, Jamaican Aisha Prought who stayed tucked behind the leaders all through pounced to win the title and create history for her nation.

Even though some might argue the women 3000m steeplechase is not a preserve of the country that has totally dominated the corresponding male event, Prought stunning victory summarised everything that could go and went wrong for Team Kenya in Gold Coast.

Samuel Gathimba was the other breakout performer in athletics when won Kenya her first Gold Coast 2018 medal from the most unlikeliest of sources- men 20km Race walking- when he took bronze.

He was the first Kenyan in history to stride to the podium in the discipline at an international event and despite becoming an Internet sensation following his hilarious post-race interview whose video went viral, the man from Embu will always cherish Australia.

Mamushka style

In Boxing, another debutant, Christine ‘Mamushka’ Ongare also stole the show in Gold Coast when she won bronze in the women Flyweight (51kg), having travelled to Australia among the least talked-about in a squad of 11 ‘Hit Squad’ boxers.


Christine 'Mamushka'Ongare in action against Sri Lankan pugilist, Jayasinghe Dulani in the quarters of the women’s boxing flyweight 51kg category at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. PHOTO/File 

She was the only competitor outside athletics to medal in Australia and she managed to eclipse her more illustrious teammates such as previous Commonwealth Games medallists, Benson Gicharu and Nick Okoth as well as pioneering female Olympian, Elizabeth Ongoro.

Ongare won her medal in style, knocking out Sri Lankan pugilist, Jayasinghe Dulani in the quarters in the second round after realising she was trailing after the first.

Notable Team Kenya Gold Coast flops in addition to the steeplechase women include the national rugby sevens team, Shujaa and Glasgow 2014 Javelin men champion, Julius Yego whose medal challenges ended in a whimper.

Team Kenya Gold Coast 2018 medallists

Gold

1. Wycliffe Kinyamal/Athletics/Men's 800 m/April 12

2. Conseslus Kipruto/Athletics/Men's 3000 m Steeplechase/April 13

3. Hellen Obiri/Athletics/Women's 5000 m/April 14

4. Elijah Motonei Manangoi/Athletics/Men's 1500 m/April 14

Silver

1. Stacy Ndiwa/Athletics/Women's 10,000 m/April 9

2. Beatrice Chepkoech/Athletics/Women's 1500 m/April 10

3. Celliphine Chepteek Chespol/Athletics/Women's 3000 m Steeplechase/April 11

4. Abraham Kibiwott/Athletics/Men's 3000 m Steeplechase/April 13

5. Margaret Nyairera Wambui/Athletics/Women's 800 m/April 13

6. Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi/Athletics/Women's 5000 m/April 14

7. Timothy Cheruiyot/Athletics/ Men's 1500 m/April 14

Bronze

1. Samuel Ireri Gathimba/Athletics/ Men's 20 kilometres walk/April 8

2. Edward Zakayo/Athletics/Men's 3000 m Steeplechase/April 8

3. Purity Cherotich Kirui/Athletics/Women's 3000 m Steeplechase/April 11

4. Amos Kirui/Athletics/Men's 3000 m Steeplechase/April 13

5. Rodgers Kwemoi/Athletics/Men's 10000 metres/April 13

6. Christine Ongare Boxing/Women's 51 kg/April 13