Tokyo — Emmanuel Korir was buzzing with excitement after handing Kenya her first gold medal of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on Wednesday.
Korir put up a blistering performance to win the men’s 800 metres gold in 1:45.06, leading compatriot Ferguson Rotich to a 1-2 Kenyan finish at the Games.
This came moments after Kenya only managed bronze in the women’s 3,000m steeplechase final after Hyvin Kiyeng finished third behind Uganda’s Peruth Chemutai and USA’s Courtney Frerichs.
“The race definitely wasn’t easy, I had to work extremely hard. Nobody knew what would happen and that we would have to go out there and run so hard,” Korir said.
“This (winning gold) means a lot to me. I am so happy because I have been training more than twice a day for this moment and it is very special to me. Today is my day, and I made it not only to the finals but the top of the podium. This is the best day for me in track and field.”
“Winning a gold medal is nothing easy. There was some pressure because I know that many Kenyans back home wanted us to win and we have won the event a lot.”
Korir’s victory catapulted him to the exclusive club legendary Kenyan 800m runners to have won gold at the Olympics led by his coach Paul Ereng.
Ereng started Kenya’s love affair with the gold in the Olympics in 1988, with William Tanui keeping the title in Barcelona in 1992 before Bungei reclaimed it in 2008 in Beijing. David Rudisha, the world record holder over the distance, won the gold in London 2012 and Rio 2016.
Korir dedicated the gold to his father.
“This is for everyone who is close to me but especially my father. He was the one who always supported me from the time I was a child, and this is a really tough event. He was always there for me, and I feel like this is for him because of the all the sacrifices he made so that I could be here.”
Poland’s Patryk Dobek (1:45.39) took a surprise bronze, as Australia’s Peter Bol, who had taken the initiative in the early stages of the race, winding fourth outside the medals in 1:45.92.
Botswana’s Amos Nigel, the 2012 London Olympics silver medallist and the pre-race favourite owing to his world lead, finished a disappointing eighth place in 1:46.41.