12 May 2019

Kenyans Salvage Pride With Bronze at World Relays

Kenyan sprinters took their fans on a roller-coaster ride of emotions on Sunday, salvaging a bronze medal on an incoherent second and final day of competition at the fourth IAAF World Relays in Yokohama's Nissan Stadium.

Kenya's quartet of Jared Momanyi, Maureen Thomas, Hellen Syombua and overall team captain Aron Koech secured a bronze in the 4x400 metres mixed relay, finishing well ahead of well-heeled nations like Italy, Poland, Brazil, Germany and Belgium.

This was after Kenya's women's 4x200m team (Eunice Kadogo, Millicent Ndoro, Joan Cherono and Freshia Mwangi) flopped in baton change and the men's squad over the same distance (Mark Odhiambo, Mike Mokamba, Samuel Chege and Alphas Kishoyian) finished an otherwise impressive fourth, just outside the podium.

Fighting for one of the slots up for grabs in the women's 4x400m, Kenya brought the rear in a half-hearted attempt in a 'B' final organised to identify two qualifiers that would join eight others at the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, later this year.

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USA ran away with the overall title on a cold Yokohama night with Jamaica and hosts Japan in tow as 20,134 fans watched, appearing like just a handful in this humongous stadium that hosted the 2002 Fifa World Cup final.

The 70,000-seater venue will also celebrate this year's Rugby World Cup final on November 2.

And just as their footballers did in the 2002 football final where Ronaldo's double sank Germany 2-0 to earn their nation a fifth World Cup title, Brazil's sprinters produced the show-stopper, edging out a Justin Gatlin-inspired USA by the thickness of a vest to bag a surprise gold in the men's 4x100 metres relay, the championship's final race.

The "Samba boys" - Rodrigo do Nascimento, Jorge Vides, Derick Silva and Paulo Andre Camilo de Oliveira - clocked 38.05 seconds to win by two hundredths of a second from the American quartet of Michael Rogers, Gatlin, Isaiah Young and Noah Lyles.

Chijindu Ujah, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, Adam Gemili and Nathaneel Mitchell-Blake secured the final podium place for England in 38.15. Bizarrely, these championships did not dish out medals, and the hosts of the next competition are yet to be identified by IAAF.

The World Relays are the latest kid on the IAAF's competition bloc, having been hosted three times in a row (in 2014, 2015 and 2017) in the Bahamas before coming to Japan.

With the thermometer at 19 degrees Celcius, Gladys Musyoki, Eglay Nalyanya, Emily Cherotich and Nevian Michira shuffled positions from Saturday's heats' running order, but the rethink flopped when they finished last in the 4x400m 'B' final in three minutes, 31.26 seconds.

Japan (3:31.71) and Australia (3:31.34) placed first and second to qualify for Doha along with the 'A' finalists.

Skipper Koech and his team-mates were besides themselves with joy after their podium finish, celebrating feverishly in the media mixed zone and appealing for further support to sprinters to push them into contention at the Olympic Games which will be held an hours' drive away from Yokohama in Tokyo next year.

"I'm extremely delighted with our third-place finish," Koech, an experienced hurdler who was once ranked 25th in the world said.

"This (mixed relay podium) has never happened ever since in Kenya. I thank God and my colleagues because each one of us ran his or her leg very well."

The Kenyan team had little time to regroup as they had to rush to Tokyo's Narita Airport moments later to catch their Emirates flight back to Nairobi with a nine-hour layover in Dubai, rather poorly planned travel plans for a squad that needed to catch some breath and sample Tokyo, venue of next year's Olympic Games.

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