Korir and Rotich lift Kenyan Olympics gloom with one-two in 800 metres

By: AFP      Published: 07:46 PM, 4 Aug, 2021
Korir and Rotich lift Kenyan Olympics gloom with one-two in 800 metres
Gold medallist Kenya's Emmanuel Kipkurui Korir (R) and silver medallist Kenya's Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich celebrate after the men's 800m final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Kenya's Emmanuel Korir won the men's 800 metres Olympic title on Wednesday with compatriot Ferguson Rotich taking silver to put some gloss on their country's disappointing athletics medal haul at this Games. 

Korir timed 1min 45.06sec with Rotich finishing in 1:45.23 while Poland's Patryk Dobek took the bronze in 1:45.39.

Korir succeeds fellow Kenyan and two-time champion David Rudisha, who was unable to defend his title due to injury. Wilfried Bungei also won the title for Kenya at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The Kenyans have not been at their best in Tokyo, even seeing their stranglehold on the men's 3,000m steeplechase dating back to 1984 broken by Morocco's Soufiane el Bakkali.

Silver medallist Rotich said the disappointing results were understandable given the difficulties Kenyan athletes had faced preparing for the Games due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"In Kenya we are progressing despite the challenges of the pandemic," he said. 

"In the last year, most of us, we didn't train well. There was the coronavirus and now we're coming back.

"Maybe by next year we'll be able to win more medals for our country."

Korir said his success was rich compensation after he failed to reach the final at successive major championships. 

"This is a big thing for me after failing to qualify for the final in the 2017 and 2019 world championships. But today is my day," he said.

Oh you are late

Korir, 26, pounced rounding the bend into the home straight, passing Australia's Peter Bol and was never seriously threatened from there on.

The gold medallist said Sudan-born naturalised Australian Bol had been a huge help to him. 

"I didn't have any strategy," said Korir. "I just thought I would try and follow and see what would happen.

"There was nobody who wanted to take the pace, so I just said I was going to control it.

"The Australian guy, he did something good for me."

Rotich came with a late run but he could not eat significantly into his team-mate's lead. The 31-year-old looked delighted to have won a medal after finishing fifth behind Rudisha in the 2016 Olympic final.

"The last 100m, I was far behind," he said.

"I was not in a medal position and a thought came in my mind that 'oh, you are late'.

"And I just came out very quickly and I moved forward."

There was bitter disappointment, though, for Botswana's Nijel Amos who finished second to last, failing to capitalise on his good fortune in being inserted into the final by the judges after falling in his semi-final.

Amos, 27, had been stretchered from the track when he took silver behind Rudisha in the London 2012 final when the Kenyan broke the world record.

This time he sank to his haunches and was on the verge of tears after finishing.

Clayton Murphy, the 2016 bronze medallist, trailed in last, just as he did in the 2019 world championships final.

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