Commonwealth Games: Aisha Praught takes gold as Jamaica’s women stand up on Gold Coast

Praught denies Chespol to win GC2018 steeplechase gold for Jamaica!

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Jamaica won a rare middle-distance gold as Aisha Praught timed her burst to perfection to outsprint pre-race favourite Celliphine Chespol to end Kenya’s hold on the 3000m steeplechase title at the Commonwealth Games

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Kenyans swept the medals in this event at the last two Commonwealth Games and it seemed another was on the way until Praught made her move on the last water jump and pulled away to win in 9:21.00.

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Kenyan teammates Celliphine Chepteek Chespol (9:22.61) and Purity Cherotich Kirui (9:25.74) settled for silver and bronze.

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Praught, who trains in the United States with world champion Emma Coburn, said the Jamaicans were going to come back stronger.

“If we don’t win a gold in the 100, we’ll win one in the steeplechase. We’re just switching it up,” she said.

Recently retired Usain Bolt arrived on Wednesday as the cheerleader-in-chief for the Jamaicans, and Praught said it would give the team a lift.

“He’s been such an amazing role model, even though we couldn’t be in further events from each other — you just learn from the greats,” she said. “I’m glad he’s here. Hopefully he can raise people’s spirits.”

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“I just put in the work every day and believe that I can race anyone,” said Praught. “I knew the Commonwealth Games was what I wanted and I worked towards it every day.”.

“I always expect Jamaicans to come out and do their best,” said the eight-time Olympic champion. “We are a big track nation so we always expect the best of them at all times.”

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“I just put in the work every day and believe that I can race anyone,” she said, adding of her adopted country: “We need medals. We need to band together as a nation.”

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Jamaica beating Kenya to the steeplechase title at a major championship is akin to Harambee Stars beating Brazil in the final of Fifa World Cup.

Hitherto impossible.

 

But Jamaica’s Aisha Praught on Wednesday proved that, as sportswear giants Adidas’ slogan says, “Impossible is Nothing” by claiming the Commonwealth Games steeplechase gold at the Carrara Stadium before a stunned crowd that had already tipped Kenya for a clean sweep.

STORY OF RESILIENCE

Praught’s story is one of resilience and venturing into the unknown. The daughter of a reggae artist took up the steeplechase just to ensure her school’s track team had depth.

 

“I was actually a 400 metres runner, I’ve run 59 (seconds) but my university wanted an all-round athletics team and so I decided why not get into the steeplechase!” said the Wisconsin-born 28-year-old Illinois State University Hall of Famer.

 

“I’ve been gradually improving and I know you are surprised because is is not a traditionally Jamaican sport but we really want to diversify.”

 

She based her training in her adopted nation of US and it came in handy when she challenged pre-race favourite Celliphine Chespol of Kenya in the final stages of the race much to the surprise of the Kenyan camp.

 

Her winning time of nine minutes, 21.00 seconds was outside her personal best 9:19.29, but that didn’t matter as much as the gold medal that had everyone talking.

“Congrats on a huge win,” tweeted three-time US 5,000 metres champion Molly Huddle after the race.

 

“Girls watching in Jamaica will be wanting to steeple like you someday!”

 

Chespol, bronze medallist at last year’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships, settled for silver in 9:22.61 while defending champion Purity Cherotich took bronze in 9:25.74.

 

The third Kenyan, Fancy Cherono, who was making her debut in the senior category after a fifth-place finish at the 2017 Africa Under-20 Championships, was sixth in 9:46.27.

“My body just failed to react,” said Cherotich, who has represented Kenya since 2009 when she finished fourth at the Africa Junior Championships in Bambous, Mauritius.

“Then I thought Chespol would take the fight to the Jamaican but I was shocked to see the Jamaican win, and I could do nothing as I was way back.”

 

Chespol said she just didn’t know what went wrong.

 

“I didn’t realise that she has right behind me,” said the 19-year-old 2016 World Under-20 steeplechase champion who has a PB of 8:58.78 over the water and barriers.

Kenya will now seek redemption in the 400m hurdles and 800m finals.

 

 

Source: Reuters/ Loop News/ Daily Nation

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