Finally, Kenyans are happy to be associated with the Gold Coast City, thanks to Wycliffe Kinyamal, who delivered the first gold at the ongoing Commonwealth Games.
Kinyamal won the race in 1:45.11 amid a sigh of relief from the Kenyans who had been waiting for the moment with bated breath.
The gold medal came as a shocker to many, with former Olympic silver medallist and defending champion, Nigel Amos, the pre-race favourite. However, he ended up last in a poor time of 1:48.45.
England’s Kyle Langford clocked 1:45.16 to take silver while Australia’s Luke Mathews ran away with bronze in 1:45.60. The second Kenyan in the race, Jonathan Kitilit, faded to sixth in 1:46.07, behind Scotland’s Jake Wightman (1:45.82) and New Zealand’s Brad Mathas (1:46.07).
Kinyamal who hails from Poroko in Trans Mara, admitted that he was scared of Nigel. Coincidentally, he comes from the same location as former two-time world champion Billy Konchella, but a bit far from current Olympic and world 800m record holder, David Rudisha’s home.
“I was not very sure of victory but I psyched myself and decided to give it my all,” he noted.
He said even when he broke away from the rest of the field at the 500m mark, he believed in himself and knew he would sustain his speed.
“The 800m is a mind game and one needs to calculate properly. Don’t start what you can’t finish,” he warned.
Before winning the title, Kinyamal had only won at the East Africa level.
“This is a big boost for me and the beginning of good things to come,” he noted. He said his next stop would be the Diamond League starting with Doha next month.
Apparently, Kinyamal was a high jumper in school and never quite ran the 800m. “I am a former student of Mogonga High School in Kisii and they never knew me as an 800m runner. I was just a small time high jumper and it ended up there,” he added.
Mogonga has lately produced the likes of world under-18 400m silver medallist, Mary Moraa and world U-18 walk silver medallist Dominic Ndigiti.
He said his athletics story started properly when he joined Keringet Camp in Nakuru after being prodded by a friend and a former athlete, Leshan Togom.
“I didn’t know what to expect there but things just happened. I have since moved to Kaptagat and the rest is history,” he said.
Kinyamal who cleared school in 2015, said his target is to feature at the Olympics 2020 in Tokyo. He admitted that he has not had a forum to meet Rudisha and he would love to talk to him at least for a few tips going forward.
“He has always been my role model and why not, I would love to meet him,” he added.
Kitilit said he sacrificed himself for the sake of the country. “We played and I opted to take care of Nigel for the sake of that first gold. I am happy things worked as per the plan even though I didn’t make the podium,” he noted.