Korir reads from Ereng’s playbook to win Kenya its first gold in Tokyo
Emmanuel Korir read from his coach Paul Ereng’s playbook to win Kenya her first gold medal at the on going Tokyo Olympics Games yesterday.
It was a repeat of what happened 33 years ago when little favoured Ereng won Kenya gold in the same event during the 1988 Seoul Games.
Just like Korir who was third in the Kenyan trials last month, Ereng too had finished third barely qualifying behind Nixon Kiprotich and veteran Juma Ndiwa, Kenyan officials even contemplated dropping him for highly favoured Robert Kibet who had finished fourth.
So yesterday, the Texas-based athlete succeeded compatriot David Rudisha as the new king of the race.
With double Olympic gold medallist Rudisha’s persistent injuries denying him the chance to defend his title, it opened a the way for a new champion to emerge and Korir seized the opportunity in style, leading a Kenyan one-two as Ferguson Rotich settled for silver.
Korir timed 1:45.06 and Rotich followed in 1:45 23 to ensure the country retains the honours in four consecutive Games, Wilfred Bungei (2008) and Rudisha (2012 and 2016).
Korir a former UTEP national champion entered the Games with the second best odds to win gold and proved worthy of that in the early rounds.
He won his first round heat last Friday, then cruised to a second place finish on his semifinal heat.
And on Wednesday, hanging with the leaders for the first lap, Korir made his big move with 250m to go, moving in to first place on the curve with about 200m left.
Korir’s trademark strong kick being alos a 400m runner took over, as he out-raced Rotich and Poland’s Patryk Dobek in a full sprint down the final 50 meters.
Korir crossed the finish line with arms outstretched, immediately celebrating his gold medal accomplishment.
Dobek won bronze in 1:45.39 with Australia’s Peter Bol finishing fourth in 1:45.92.
2012 London Olympics silver medalist, a favourite for glory in the race finished a distant eighth in 1:46.41.
Nigel was a late inclusion in the final after falling in the semifinals. He was reinstated after appeal.