By Darren Allan
Ethiopian Jemal Yimer provided the main highlight by taking the 10000m title on Day One of the 21st Africa Senior Athletics Championships in Asaba, Nigeria on Wednesday.
Yimer put the icing on the cake on the short evening program at the revamped Stephen Keshi Stadium by claiming his first international medal.
There had been fears of rain earlier in the day but it turned out humid when the 25-lap race got underway, almost under hours before the sunset.
The 21-year-old ran a slow but tactical race to win in a time of 28 minutes and 8.01 seconds on the blue tartan for Ethiopia’s first 10000m title at the Championships since Gebregziabher Gebremariam won on home soil in Addis Ababa a decade ago.
“I am very happy,” Yimer said moments after picking his medal from Confederation of Africa Athletics (CAA) president Hamad Kalkaba and Delta State Governor Dr. Arthur Ifeanyi at the podium.
“I have finally won a gold medal for my country in an international event,” he said.
Having taken fourth place in the senior men’s 10km race at the World Cross-country Championships in Kololo and later fifth place in the 10000m final at the London World Championships last year, his big breakthrough was imminent.
“Indeed it was a very challenging competition not only because of my compatriots but also other competitors in the field. But my preparedness helped me to win,” Yimer added.
On sensing the humid conditions, the race began slowly but Yimer checked the pace of the 11-man field when he briefly led for 300m after the first two laps.
Then the big pack solidified again until when Djibouti’s Ibrahim Hassan went ahead at the tenth lap, much to delight of the ecstatic crowd.
His lead only last three laps before he fell to the back as the surging pace cut the field to only six that included Ugandan Timothy Toroitich, when approaching the 4500m mark.
It is here that Vincent Kipsang took over, reminding every spectator of Kenya’s eternal prowess over the long-distance.
He was in company of Toroitich as Ethiopians Yimer and Belihu Berta followed through with Kenyan Kipsang Temoi. By this stage, Eritrean Awet Habte had fallen off.
The front pack exchanged positions countlessly, Yimer leading on the 21st lap with his compatriot and they kicked in another gear, gripping the stadium thoroughly.
At the bell, Kispang (Vincent) attempted to lead again but Yimer gave no room to error. He sped off in style, Berta racing to second as Toroitich beat off Kipsang to the bronze medal.
Toroitich’s medal was Uganda’s first at the Africa Seniors in six years. It was also his first senior medal for the East African country after years of assisting his compatriots like Moses Kipsiro and Joshua Cheptegei to the podium.
“I thank God,” the soft-spoken runner happily said. “My time has finally come. There is time for everyone and it means no one should ever give up,” Toroitich offered.
2018 AFRICA SENIOR ATHLETICS CHAMPIONSHIPS
MEN’S 10000M FINAL – RESULT
1 Jemal Yimer (ETH) 28:08.01
2 Belihu Berta (ETH) 29:11.09
3 Timothy Toroitich (UGA) 29:11.87
4 Vincent Kipsang (KEN) 29:14.52
5 Kipsang Temoi (KEN) 29:25.54
6 Awet Habte (ERI) 29:38.41
7 Josephat Bett (KEN) 30:13.22
8 Ibrahim Hassan (DJI) 30:13.36
9 Elroy Gelant (RSA) 30:23.25
10 Ali Mahamat (CHA) 31:12.18
CAST OF 10000M CHAMPIONS
2016: Stephen Mokoka (RSA)
2014: Nguse Amlosom (ERI)
2012: Kenneth Kipkemoi (KEN)
2010: Wilson Kiprop (KEN)
2008: Gebregziabher Gebremariam (ETH)
2006: Moses Kipsiro (UGA)
2004: Charles Kamathi (KEN)
2002: Paul Malakwen Kosgei (KEN)
2000: Abraha Hadush (ETH)