Teamwork, sacrifice and sheer determination earned Kenya a 1-2 finish in the women's 10,000 metres final here Saturday night with Commonwealth Games silver medallist Stacey Ndiwa dethroning compatriot Alice Aprot as Africa champion on the penultimate day of the 21st African Athletics Championships.
One struggled to endure the oven conditions at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in this Delta State capital of Asaba (with race time temperatures of 29 degrees Celcius and humidity levels of 68 percent) from the terraces, and it meant it was always going to be a hard race for the athletes out there on the track.
Ndiwa's winning time was 31 minutes, 31.17 seconds.
Aprot, the defending champion from the last edition in Durban two years ago, came in second with Pauline Korikwiang forced out with an achilles injury with eight laps to go.
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It was Kenya's fifth gold at these championships after victories by Hellen Obiri (5,000m), Mathew Sawe (high jump), Conseslus Kipruto (steeplechase) and Winny Chebet (1,500m).
Aprot's silver was Kenya's second following Emmanuel Korir's second place finish in the 800m, with Kenya on one bronze through the women's short relay.
"It was tough for me and had I even taken two more steps out there, the Achilles injury could have been worse," said Korikwiang, 30, the national champion.
Korikwiang, silver medallist at both under-18 and under-20 levels over the 3,000m distance, did most of the front running before dropping out.
Aprot and Ndiwa then rode a tandem bike for most of the remaining distance, with 25-year-old Ndiwa, who trains in marathon specialist Lydia Cheromei's group in Iten, breaking away at the bell and kicking spectacularly in the final 400 metres to take gold.
"After the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, I felt that my speed wasn't good enough and so I put in a lot of speedwork training in Iten and that's why you saw me kick so well in the last 400 metres.
"We wanted to help each other as the Kenyan team throughout the race as we were wary of the threat posed by Ethiopians and Ugandans," said Ndiwa, who has a personal best time of 31:46.36 which she earned at Gold Coast.
Aprot (PB 29:53.51) watched as Ndiwa opened up a 5, 10, 20 and finally 30-metre gap before collapsing in disbelief after crossing the finish line, with Aprot coming through and collecting the national flag to lead a lap of honour as the Kenyan party, headed by team leader Abraham Mutai, exploded in celebrations in the terraces.
The 24-year-old Kenya Prisons Service athlete wasn't disappointed with the second place as the gold and silver medals were heading home, anyway, with Ethiopia's Asnakech Awoke taking the bronze to Addis Ababa.
"We planned the race as a team and we helped each other," Aprot said.
"We pushed the pace up because we knew the Ethiopians had a strong finish.
"I sacrificed to push the pace and open up a gap with the Ethiopians and I thank God we did it. It was hot and humid, and it was all up to one's determination to win the medals," added Aprot, whose elder brother Joseph Ebuya won the senior world cross country title eight years ago in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
Aprot added that she endured a running stomach and noted that she would shift her focus to the cross country.
"I had a running stomach. I don't know what the problem was with the food last night.
"But my body is good and I will now shift focus to the cross country. I love cross country running and with the world championships next year, I hope to get selected and make my country proud."
She would most certainly be heading for a better dinner last night after a job well done, maybe some pounded yam, plantain or a generous serving of jollof rice to re-energize.
And Kenya's head coach here, Stephen Mwaniki, will be satisfied with the performance of his athletes who have endured tough conditions in Nigeria to fight for the medals.
In the women's javelin, Kenya's Damacline Nyakeruri fell just outside the medals in fourth place with a throw of 50.94 metres as Nigeria's Nwanaga Kelechi (56.95m), South Africa's Jo-an Van Dyke (53.72) and Uganda's Josephine Lalaw Joyce (51.33m) took the podium places.
Isaac Kirwa Yego wound up ninth in the triple jump (19.93m).
The medals went to Hagues Zango of Burundi (17.11m), South Africa back-from-retirement Godfrey Mokoena (16.83) and Algeria's Yasser Triki (16.78m).
Kenya's Peter Mwai will feature in the 200 metres final on the final day of action, drawn in lane one after making it through from Saturday's semi-finals with Mike Mokamba failing to advance.