Athletics: Shaheen holds off Koech to add to Kenya's misery

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The Independent Online

Kenyan Athletics, in turmoil following the Olympic 1500 metres bronze medallist Bernard Lagat's positive test for the banned blood-booster EPO, and the subsequent dismissal of the team coach, Mike Kosgei, suffered another blow here last night at the Ivo Van Damme Memorial meeting.

The former Kenyan athlete Stephen Cherono, running in his new incarnation of Saif Saeed Shaheen and wearing the colours of his paymasters, Qatar, continued to confound his former country as he held off the challenge of Paul Koech to win the 3,000m steeplechase in 8min 00.07sec, the fastest time in the world this year.

Koech tracked his former countryman all the way to the line in the last of the six scheduled International Association of Athletics Associations' Golden League meetings after the rest of the field was left behind at the halfway point, but he could not catch him, finishing a stride behind the taller man in 8:00.42.

Kenya's World Championship silver medallist, Ezekiel Kemboi, was fifth in 8:12.87, while Cherono's brother Abraham, whom he refused to acknowledge after his victory in Paris, was a distant 13th in 8:31.73.

Kenya slipped to seventh in the World Championships medals table and lost the 3,000m steeplechase title for the first time in 12 years, and Kosgei defended himself yesterday from accusations of incompetence, asking Athletics Kenya to blame instead Moses Kiptanui, who was the head coach in Paris.

The Athletics Kenya chairman, Isaiah Kiplagat, said that Kenya's below-par performance in Paris was largely due to incompetent coaching, and Kosgei said: "For Athletics Kenya to sack me for alleged poor performance in Paris ... smacks of hypocrisy, dishonesty and scapegoating. I have proved that I am the best distance running coach around and the facts are there for anybody to vouch. But I saw this [sacking] coming the moment Kiptanui was named head coach in July."

Denise Lewis, still working towards defending her Olympic heptathlon title in Athens next year, took the opportunity to improve her season's best performance in the javelin in an independent competition which included the world silver and bronze medallists, Tatyana Shikolenko of Russia and Steffi Nerius of Germany.

Lewis, whose throws are being controversially coached by the former head of East German track and field, Ekkart Arbeit, produced an effort of 50.14 metres, which surpassed her effort of 49.88m in finishing fifth in the World Championships, and was less than a metre below her best ever performance of 51.13m, achieved in the course of her Olympic victory three years ago.

Natasha Danvers, who suffered the disappointment of stumbling on the run-in to the 400m hurdles final at the World Championships when she looked certain to claim a bronze medal, appears to be suffering a hangover from that crushing disappointment.

The 25-year-old Shaftesbury Barnet Harrier, who also suffered misfortune in last year's Commonwealth Games when she missed out on a medal after falling at the final hurdle, trailed home a disconsolate last in a time of 57.08sec. The race was won in 53.49sec by Russia's Yuliya Pechonkina.

A season which promised so much, as Danvers lowered her personal best on three consecutive occasions to its current level of 54.02, now seems to be ending in torment. Last night she looked utterly demoralised.