Even after a tedious itinerary, Uganda managed to get out of the blocks in style with Timothy Toroitich bagging 10000m bronze on Day One of the 21st Africa Senior Athletics Championships.
Toroitich needed to outmuscle competition from Kenyan Vincent Kipsang to finish third in 29 minutes and 11.87 seconds after a slow but well calculated race won by Ethiopian Jemal Mekonnen.
Devoid of company from World U20 silver medallist Jacob Kiplimo, Toroitich ran a solo race in a small field of 11 on the blue tartan of the new Stephen Keshi Stadium.
“I am very happy,” Toroitich said in the mixed zone after picking his medal from Delta State Governor Dr. Arthur Ifeanyi.
For all his years in the senior ranks, Toroitich had never stepped on the podium. He instead was the plot executioner as Moses Kipsiro shone or even when Joshua Cheptegei bagged 10000m silver at the London Worlds and the Commonwealth long-distance double on the Gold Coast in April.
“It was too humid but I am so happy because this is my first senior medal,” the 27-year-old said. “I was prepared but I thank God. My time has finally come. There is time for everyone and it means one should never give up,” Toroitich offered.
The race began slowly with Mekonnen, who celebrates his 18th birthday on Monday, checking the pace.
Then, Djibouti’s Ibrahim Hassan led the way to the fifth lap before Kipsang led the charge after nine laps to half-way stage.
Mekonnen would then break the field to six at the front with his compatriot Belihu Berta, Toroitich, Kipsang, another Kenyan Kipsang Temoi and Eritrean Awet Habte leading.
But it broke down again with Temoi and Habte falling off. So when the final-lap bell rang, Kipsang led briefly but Mekonnen took over, charging to the finish line in 28:08.01 with Berta in second.
“I saw the pace was slow but I used my experience. With two laps to go, the Ethiopians tried to block me,” he added.
And Uganda always finds its lucky charm in West Africa. This was the country’s first medal at the Africa Seniors since the 2012 edition in Porto-Novo, Benin.
Then, Benjamin Kiplagat took steeplechase bronze and Sarah Nambawa retained her triple jump crown.
AFRICA ATHLETICS EVENT
Men’s 10000m final:
1. Jemal Mekonnen (ETH) 28:08.01
2. Belihu Berta (ETH) 29:11.09
3. Timothy Toroitich (UGA) 29:11.87
UGANDA MEDALS AT THIS LEVEL
Men’s 10000m final:
2012 Porto Novo: Benjamin Kiplagat
(Steeplechase bronze), Sarah Nambawa
(Triple jump gold)
2010 Nairobi: Moses Kipsiro (10000m
silver), Sarah Nambawa (Triple jump gold)
2006 Bambous: Moses Kipsiro (5000m bronze, 10000m gold)
2002 Rades/Tunis: Dorcus Inzikuru (5000m silver)