Kenyan wins first track gold of Glasgow 2014 in front of vocal Hampden Park crowd
Caleb Ndiku claimed the first track gold of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games on Sunday as he blasted away from the rest of the field in the men’s 5000m to the sound of the Hampden roar.
It is sure to be a taste of things to come as the vocal crowds helped to create a buzzing atmosphere in Scotland’s national stadium on the first day of track and field action.
The world indoor 3000m champion had been the favourite going into the race and even a fully fit Mo Farah would have had a challenge on his hands to beat the Commonwealth leader demonstrating his typically strong finish as he strode away to clock 13:12.07 for victory.
Following him over the line for a Kenyan one-two was Isiah Koech with 13:14.06 while Zane Robertson of New Zealand ran 13:16.52 for bronze.
Having sat back off the pace early on, Ndiku ran wide for stages before working his way through to lead at 4000m with 10:46 on the clock.
Long-time leader Koech stayed with him and the Kenyans were joined by a New Zealand trio of Robertson, his twin brother Jake and Nick Willis. With just over two laps to go, Jake Robertson had a heavy fall but got back up to work his way back to tag on the end of the lead group.
Proving his finishing power, Ndiku strode away at the bell and clocked a 54.1 last lap to leave Koech almost two seconds behind.
Andy Vernon was the best of the home nation athletes as he came through the field with 13:22.32 for sixth – his second fastest time ever despite having suffered injury recently. His fellow Englishman Tom Farrell clocked 13:23.96 for seventh as Jake Robertson and Willis ran 13:29.69 and 13:34.46 for ninth and tenth respectively. With 13:43.75, Scotland’s Luke Caldwell placed 13th.
“When I was approaching that finish line I couldn’t stop smiling, I realised it was my dream coming true,” said Ndiku. “I had so much passion. I was meant for the podium.”
Even with the field missing double world and Olympic champion Farah as he continues to return to full fitness following illness, Ndiku added: “I could see it wasn’t going to be easy. There was a lot of tough competition and I needed to know when to attack.”
Earlier on and the first gold won inside Hampden Park went to Australia’s Jodi Elkington in the T37/38 long jump as she leapt a wind assisted 4.39m for 956 points. Behind her, England’s Bethy Woodward jumped 4.00m for 750 points – a personal best securing her silver. With 3.82m Namibia’s Johanna Benson claimed 622 points for bronze. Wales’ Olivia Breen finished just outside the medals with 4.06m/578 points.
Other than the two track and field finals, sprint heats dominated much of the first day’s programme. Of the 74 athletes running in the men’s 100m heats England’s Adam Gemili went quickest, his 10.15 coming in the sixth heat, while the three Jamaican athletes – Kemar Bailey-Cole, Jason Livermore and Nickel Ashmeade – were also among those to safely progress, Bailey-Cole the quickest of that trio with 10.16 to win the first heat.
Of the home nations athletes entered, world indoor champion Richard Kilty and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey joined team-mate Gemili in advancing to Monday’s semi-finals, Kilty clocking 10.34 which saw him awarded joint second place in the seventh heat with South Africa’s Simon Magakwe and Aikines-Aryeetey qualifying as a fastest loser with 10.33 in a slightly faster heat four. Northern Ireland’s four-time Paralympic gold medallist Jason Smyth ran 10.66 in the fourth heat so failed to progress, while his team-mate Leon Reid was disqualified for a false start.
Also among those to qualify as a fastest loser was Trinidad and Tobago’s Richard Thompson, who sits second on the world rankings this season with 9.82 from June, as he ran 10.33 for third in the third heat.
Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare was quickest in the women’s 100m heats with 11.20, while Jamaicans Schillonie Calvert, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Kerron Stewart all won their respective heats.
England’s Bianca Williams, Asha Philip and Sophie Papps also advance to Monday evening’s semi-finals, having clocked 11.37, 11.47 and 11.53 respectively, but Rachel Johncock of Wales missed out on a spot by two hundredths of a second.
The defending 400m champion Amantle Montsho hasn’t demonstrated her best so far this season, her 50.37 placing her third on the Commonwealth rankings behind Novlene Williams-Mills and Christine Day. But 51.88 from the 2011 world champion saw her qualify as quickest in the first round as the Jamaicans also made it safely though to the semi-finals on Monday where they will be joined by the likes of fellow Jamaican Stephanie McPherson and the English trio of Kelly Massey, Shana Cox and Margaret Adeoye.
Two Games records also fell on the first day of athletics competition as New Zealand’s world indoor bronze medallist Tom Walsh added one centimetre to his outdoor PB and national record and broke Dylan Armstrong’s mark from Delhi with 21.24m in the first round. His team-mate Jacko Gill threw 19.54m to also book a spot in the final along with the likes of Jersey’s Zane Duquemin and England’s Scott Rider.
Not to be outdone, Canada’s Sultana Frizell launched the implement to 68.92m in the women’s hammer to better her own Games record set when winning gold in Delhi. England’s Sophie Hitchon, Sarah Holt and Shaunagh Brown also progress, as do Wales’ Carys Parry and Scottish throwers Susan McKelvie, Rachel Hunter and Myra Perkins.
» More in-depth results can be found here