Kenya’s gold rush in Durban continued on Friday when Matthew Sawe made history by winning the country’s first ever-gold medal in the men High jump after Boniface Mucheru earlier claimed the men 400m Hurdles title.
Margaret Nyairera added silver while Aron Koech and Abraham Kibiwott settled for bronze as the team to the 20th CAA Senior Championships in South Africa continued to defy the odds.
Kenya’s incursion to field events continued when national record holder, Sawe leapt to 2.21m on day three of the continental showpiece to become a pioneering champion for the country in High jump .
Victory was made sweeter when he beat home favourite Keagan Fourie who took silver in 2.18m in front of his adoring public as Cameroon’s Fernand Djoumessi (2.15m) closed the podium.
Sawe’s rare triumph will resonate across a country seeking to extend its dominance in the sport outside the traditional distance running excellence.
Before Sawe took to the High jump pit, Mucheru, a fifth finisher at Beijing Worlds claimed the top medal in the lap-hurdles final in 49:20 with Amadou Ndiaye (49:41) of Senegal beating Koech, the twin brother of world champion Nicholas Bett to the second medal on photo finish after both clocked the same time.
Stepping down the distance from her 800m speciality; Nyairera added African silver to her World Indoors bronze when she raced to 52.24 in the women 400m final well behind runaway winner Kabange Mupopo of Zambia who took the honours in 51.56.
And the jaw-dropping upsets at the King Park did not end there as Kenya surrendered the men 3000m steeplechase title to Ethiopia, a first loss at the championships in living memory when Ethiopian pair, Chala Techon (8:21.02) and Gigsa Nurgi (8:22.79) beat Kibiwott (8:24.19) to the gold and silver.
The performances improved Kenya’s medal count three gold, three silver and two bronze on day where competitors endured cold and windy conditions at the Kings Park Stadium.
There was a set back for the proud athletics nation in the men 400m finals when captain, Raymond Kibet and former Youth Olympics Games and World Youth medallist, Alphas Kishoiyan ploughed the field in sixth and seventh after stopping the timer at 46.80 and 46.95.
Baboloki Thebe of Botswana claimed the gold in 44.69, as Nigeria’s Karabo Sibanda and Chidi Okezie took silver and bronze in 45.42 and 45.76.
In other highlight performances, Olympics silver medallist, Nijel Amos bounced back to the middle step of the podium when he won the men 800m title in 1:45.38 ahead of South African pair of Jacob Rozani (1:45.38) and Rynhardt van Rensburg (1:46.15) who were forced to the lesser medals.
Home favourite, Caster Semenya continued her impressive season when she climbed the distance and won the women 1500m in 4:01.99 to keep her double bid on track as Selah Jepleting (4:09.14) and Judy Kiyeng (4:11.60) finished well down the order training in eighth and ninth.
Kenya will be in the hunt for more medals on Saturday in the women 10,000m led by Africa Cross and All Africa Games Champion, Alice Aprot alongside 2009 World Cross junior bronze medalist, Jackline Chepng’eno and Joyline Jepkosgei who are seeking a possible podium sweep.
The 4X 400m men relay team will be seeking to replicate the performance of the quartet that bagged an unprecedented gold at the African Games in Brazzaville, Congo in 2014 with Kishoyan, Mucheru and Koech in the running for the start.