Zakayo, Jepkosgei shine in Rabat race

Monday June 17 2019

Kenya’s Edward Pingua Zakayo celebrates after

Kenya’s Edward Pingua Zakayo celebrates after winning the bronze medal in the men's 5000m final during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games at the Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast on April 8, 2018. PHOTO | ADRIAN DENNIS 

By Daily Nation

Kenyans World Under-20 and Africa 5,000m champion Edward Zakayo and 800m athlete Nelly Jepkosgei chalked their maiden Diamond League victories in Rabat, Morocco on Sunday night.

Zakayo, who is also the Africa Under-20 5,000m champion, stayed behind the leading pack before surging ahead with 1000m to go to win in 13:11.49 and atone for the early defeat in Rome on June 6.

The youngster, who finished seventh in Rome but in a personal best 13:03.19, edged out Ethiopian Solomon Berihu in 13:16.08 as home athlete Soufiyan Bouqantar came in third in 13:17.26.

“I was sick just before Rome and was worried heading to Rabat, but I am glad the body responded well for a fantastic but albeit slow race,” said Zakayo, the Commonwealth 5,000m bronze medallist.

Zakayo, 17, said that he was aiming for a better time, but he wasn’t able owing to slow pacemakers.

“I was talking to the closest pacemaker to run faster, but to no avail. Hence, I decided to change the tactics at the last two rounds and continue alone,” said Zakayo, who now turns his focus to the World Championships due from September 28 to October 6 in Doha, Qatar.

A composed Jepkosgei, who had finished fourth (1:59.00) in Doha and third (2:01.98) in Stockholm, strolled across the line 1:59.50, beating Ethiopian Habitam Alemu and Ukraine's Olga Lyakhova in 1:59.90 and 2:00.35 respectively.

“Though not very tactical, the race was still fast race. My plan was to keep track of the pacemaker,” said Jepkosgei, 27, whose ultimate target this season is finishing on the podium at the World Championships in Doha.

Kenya’s Africa champion Matthew Sawe scaled 2.28m to finish fourth in men’s high jump, losing to his three rivals on countback. Bohdan Bondarenko from Ukraine won to contest beating Naoto Tobe from japan and Authorised Neutral Athlete Ilya Ivanyuk respectively.

Kenya’s once again played second fiddle to Commonwealth 800m champion Nijel Amos as Emmanuel Korir finished second behind by 0.3.

Amos wrapped up his second win of the season after Doha 1:45.57 with Korir settling second in 1:45.60 as American Clayton Murphy dug in for third in 1:45.99. Another Kenyan, Ferguson Rotich timed 1:46.38 for fourth.

“Though a good race but the windy conditions slowed the race,” said Korir.

After a splendid victory in Rome with a personal best 8:06.13, Kenya’s Benjamin Kigen failed to sparkle, finishing third in men’s 3,000m steeplechase where Ethiopians Getnet Wale and Chala Beyo ruled the roost.

It’s Wale who romped home in a World Lead and National Record time of 8:06.01, with Chala coming in second in personal best 8:06.48.

World Under-20 3,000m steeplechase silver medallist Leonard Bett was placed fourth in 8:09.27.

Rabat is the only Diamond League race organised in Africa.