Emmanuel Korir won Kenya the first gold medal in the men's 800m and urged the domestic public to be more amicable with the athletes.
NAIROBI, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- After waiting for ten days to get a first gold, Kenya finally got off the mark on Wednesday when Emmanuel Korir won the Tokyo 2020 men's 800m final to give his nation the Olympics lift off that was fast appearing out of reach.
Korir clocked 1:45.06 to take the gold, with compatriot Ferguson Rotich second and Poland's Patryk Dobek winning bronze, to become an instant sensation back home as a country that had starved for the top medal finally burst into celebration.
"I knew everyone was tough. My focus was to run the last 150m in case the pace was slow. No one was ready to take the cross in the first 400m. I said to myself let me try to push the last 100m to see whether I could make it," Korir told Kenyan reporters after his triumph in Japan.
He admitted the pressure was on after the criticism leveled against Team Kenya in Japan ahead of his final as he called on his countrymen to tone down the backlash.
"It's unfortunate that most of our guys back at home only support you when you win. But when you lose, they frustrate you, they start talking negative things, it's not good," he remarked on the stinging condemnation the class of Tokyo 2020 has received from Kenya.
The freshly minted Olympic champion is confident his victory will spark a belated gold rush from Kenya as the Tokyo 2020 Games draw to their conclusion on Sunday.
"I'm urging the Kenyans to be a little bit careful because they never know what will happen. I'm so happy and I hope this gold will inspire others to do their best," Korir added.
Among those who paid glowing complements to the 26-year-old athlete was the giant that he succeeded as Olympic champion - world record holder David Rudisha - who was watching from home having failed to gain fitness in time to defend his title.
"Back to Kenya! We retained Gold in 4 straight Olympic Games in 800m men. Congratulations Emmanuel Korir and Ferguson Rotich," the London 2012 and Rio 2016 champion exclaimed on social media.
Korir and Rotich were the toast of Kenya's Internet space as thousands of Kenyan poured tributes after an agonising wait for their national anthem to be played at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium.
Political leaders and other luminaries joined ordinary Kenyans in the online praise gravy train as a country that had witnessed another chance for gold eluded them in the women's 3,000m steeplechase minutes before lapped glory at last.
"There it is! Team Kenya's first Gold medal! Congratulations to Korir and Rotich for a phenomenal 1-2 finish in the men's 800m at Tokyo 2020. You have made the nation happy," the country's Deputy President, William Ruto, cheered on micro-blogging site Twitter.
"Yes. What a tactical run and strong finish, congratulations to Korir on winning the 800m Olympic gold medal and Rotich taking the silver medal. The entire nation is proud of you both. Well in!" former Prime Minister Raila Odinga added as scores of posts made Korir a trending topic moments after his victory.