Nairobi, June 26 (IANS) Top figures in Kenyan athletics celebrated Mathew Sawe’s history-making men’s high jump gold at the 17th CAA Senior Championships in Durban, South Africa, that concluded on Sunday.
National record holder Sawe leapt to 2.21m on day three of the continental tournament to become the first ever winner at the field event for Kenya at any international meeting to spark an outpouring of congratulatory excitement, reports Xinhua.
Victory was made sweeter when he beat home favourite Keagan Fourie who took silver in 2.18m in front of his adoring public as Cameroon’s Fernand Djoumessi (2.15m) closed the podium.
Retired International Olympic Committee member and former world marathon record holder, Paul Tergat, led the athletics fraternity in hailing Sawe’ s pioneering achievement at the King Park Stadium in Durban.
“This is history for our country and shows we can compete with the best outside our usual track and road races. It’ s a huge boost for field events,” the two-time Olympics men’s 10000m silver medallist and five-time world cross country champion observed.
Beijing World Championships men’s javelin champion, Julius Yego, was enthused by having another field athlete to share the limelight with having racked a list of firsts including the first and only Kenyan winner in his event at the All Africa Games, African Championships and Commonwealth Games.
“What a show! Field events and sprints are rewarding Kenya! Congrats to Mathew Sawe and Mucheru for their splendid performance!” said Yego, who is preparing to pursue another milestone by winning the javelin Olympic gold in Rio.
Athens 2004 bronze medallist and Beijing 2008 men’s 5000m silver winner, Eliud Kipchoge, who is the favourite for the marathon gold in Rio also saluted Sawe’s landmark victory calling for him to be included in the Brazil squad.
“Acknowledgement does not begin to do justice to this truly miraculous victory and I send my deepest appreciation to him, well done and congrats,” the two-time London and Berlin marathon winner stated.
Beijing 2008 Olympics and three-time world 1500m-world champion, Asbel Kiprop, simply marvelled at the performance offering a simple “Wow!”
Sawe’s victory came hot on the heels of Bernard Mucheru taking the honours in men’s 400m hurdles as Kenya continues to make inroads in other disciplines in the sport outside their famed distance running prowess.
The country will hold trials for the Rio 2016 Olympics on Thursday and Friday where more short distance and field events athletes are expected to get chances to chase medals in Brazil when the team is later named.