Kenya and Australia came out of day one of the Commonwealth athletics feeling golden as they both secured 2 wins to go to the top of the medals table.
After one win apiece in the morning’s marathon’s and gold for Jodi Elkington in the women’s T37/38 long jump, it was Caleb Ndiku who rounded off the day’s finals in style, by taking the men’s 5000m.
In the absence of Mo Farah, it was Kenya’s Ndiku who stole the show in the men’s 5000m winning in 13.12 after producing a blistering 54 second last lap to pull away from his rivals and justify his tag of favourite.
After running a 1:54 last 800m it could be suggested that even if his rival Farah had been racing, Ndiku’s speed and sharpness would have given him the edge.
While the Kenyan’s 2 second margin of victory suggested a dominant win, it hadn’t been until 4k that he took control of the field, to break away from a lead pack of 14 athletes that had been for a long time headed by his compatriot Isiah Koech, who eventually finished in 2nd in 13.14.06.
Behind the pair in 3rd was Zane Robertson, of New Zealand, who had been with the lead group from the start and showed excellent form to stay with his the two African athletes when the others couldn’t. Part of Robertson’s ability to stick with the Kenyans may well have come through experience; as an athlete who trains in Kenya all year round alongside twin Jake, it’s likely that he would be more than prepared for their end of the race tactics.
Jake, had also been in contention in the race, having been 3rd until a fall with just under 1k to go swiped away his chances, and despite getting up almost instantly, he finished 9th.
From an English perspective there were superb 6th and 7th place finishes respectively from Andy Vernon and Tom Farrell; Vernon’s run of 13.22.32, his 2nd fastest ever, was particularly impressive when you consider he’d been recovering from injury for the last 6 weeks.
Robertson’s bronze in the 5k completed a superb set of long distance and field performances from the Oceania athletes on day one after Australia took gold and bronze in the morning’s marathon races and shot putter Tom Walsh smashed the Commonwealth Games record in qualifying with a throw of 21.24metres.
Opening up the week’s athletics action, Michael Shelley produced an amazing last 10k to shock his East Africans rivals and win the men’s marathon in style. Running in a lead pack of 10 athletes up to 35k, Shelley, silver medallist from 2010, went one better, as he showed his strength to move clear of what eventually became a leading 4, just before 40k.
Shelley’s winning time was a personal best 2.11.15 as he beat runner up Stephen Chemlany of Kenya by 47 seconds and was a further 21s in front of Ugandan bronze medallist, Abraham Kiplimo, who narrowly beat his compatriot Soloman Mutai to claim the nation’s first medal of the Games.
Speaking after his win, the Australian credited his Gold medal winning performance to staying focused, even when he had gained the lead: “It was still head down, I didn’t think about it too much [The lead] because still anything can happen. I was just thinking keep going, keep going, and keep digging….
“I was given great instructions by my coach-Dick Telford, what a legend- and I followed them as much I could.”
The first Brit home in the race, was Scotland’s Derek Hawkins, who finished 9th in 2:14:15, he was closely followed by 40 year-old Steve Day who broke the British vet-40 record in personal best 2:15:16 to complete his 7 year journey from a 16 stone coach potato to top 10 Commonwealth runner marathon runner.
After his run was understandably delighted: “My goals were top 10, PB and British vet record and I’ve managed all of them. I couldn’t have hoped for a better day!”
In the Women’s race there was victory for recent Paris marathon winner, Flomena Daniel, in 2.26.45, who led home a Kenyan 1-2 from Caroline Kilel, the pair been a class apart from their opponents and had only each other as company for the majority of the race after getting a break at 15k. After being matched all the way to 40k Daniel, proved to be the stronger athlete running the last 2k in 7:13 to win by 25 seconds. After her victory the Kenyan said to Commonwealth reporters: “It really was the best and I hope to be at there at the next Commonwealth Games. I am happy to win and be the fastest woman in today’s race.
In 3rd was Australia’s Jess Trengrove, who ran an excellent second half to make up from an earlier mistake at the 10k drinks stop , as she gradually worked her way up and eventually overtook long-time 3rd placer, Nambian, Helalia Johannes who faded badly to finish 5th.
In the day’s heats there were no early big name casualties despite some below par performances almost causing them, particularly in the men’s 100m.
While England’s Adam Gemili qualified for tomorrow’s Semi-final in style by posting the day’s fastest time of 10.15, team mate Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and Trinidad’s Richard Thompson were left grasping on to a fastest-loser’s spots after only finishing 3rd in their heats. Richard Kilty also made it through after finishing 2nd in 10.34.
Other fast heat winners were Jamaica’s Kemar Bailey-Cole and Trinidadian Keston Bledman, who both ran 10.16.
In the women’s 100m there were far less problems as Sophie Papps, Bianca Williams and Asha Phillip all made it through safely, Williams coming through with the fastest time of the 3 after running 11.37 to finish just behind Kerron Stewart. Northern Ireland’s Amy Foster will join them in the Semi-finals. The fastest qualifier in the event was Blessing Okagbare with 11.20, the multi-talented athlete looking easy as she crossed the line.
In the final heats on the track, the women’s 400m, reigning champion Amantle Montsho produced the quickest time of the day as she won heat 5 n 51.88 for the only sub 52 run of the day. Her performance suggests that the Botswana athlete may well be peeking just at the right time. There were also wins for the Jamaican trio of Christine Day, Novlene Williams-Mills and Stephanie Macpherson, while England’s Kelly Massey, Shana Cox and Margaret Adeoye all went through after finishing 3rd, 3rd and 2nd respectively.
Arguably their best performances of the day from a British perspective came in the qualifying for the Women’s Hammer Throw where Sophie Hitchon 1st round automatic throw paved the way as 7 home athletes made it through to the final on the 28th.