Cyrus Rutto, Kenya’s only hope in the men’s 5,000m final on Saturday, is keeping his options open, hoping to find the right strike that will hand Kenya’s first title in 12 years.
Even as pundits tip Briton Mo Farah to wrap up a record fourth successive title to add to his three Olympics titles, Rutto has downplayed the bookmakers, saying all the finalists have an equal opportunity and chance.
Rutto said he hopes his performance will help ease the tensions in Kenya after the General Election.
“I’m prepared for any eventuality and it’s my hope that I will give Kenya a medal,” said Rutto, who is determined to give Kenya its first gold medal since Benjamin Limo’s exploits at 2005 Helsinki.
Rutto said he was happy to have avoided embarrassment that was Rio Olympic Games where Kenya failed to have an athlete in the final for the first time since their debut in 1954.
“I am glad I exorcised the demons but I will satisfy the hunger of the 42 million plus Kenyans with a medal,” said Rutto, who called on Kenyans to pray for him and his colleagues, who are yet to battle.
Rutto finished third in the second semi-final in 13 minutes and 22.45 seconds, losing the battle to World Under-18 Championships’ 3,000m champion Solomon Barega from Ethiopia in 13:21.50.
Barega is also the World Under-20 Championships 5,000m champion.
However, Rutto’s compatriots David Kiplangat and Kiprono Menjo failed to qualify. Menjo lodged an appeal when he fell after being pushed but it was dismissed.
Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha clocked 13:30.07 to beat Farah and fellow countryman Edris Muktar in 13:30.18 and 13:30.22 respectively in the first heat.
“Besides Farah, Muktar and Barega, who claimed the first two places in Lausanne leg of the Diamond League in world leading times of 12:55.23 and 12:55.58 are athletes to watch out. Kejelcha ran strongly in the semi-finals and looks good too,” said Rutto, who hails from Kapsoiyo in Keiyo North, Elgeyo-Marakwet County.
“It will be tricky and the race will be down to who has the best tactics.”
Whether Rutto will crack it on his debut at this stage is left to be known, having only represented Kenya in High School back in 2011 and 2012.
He won Regional School Games 5,000m title and 1,500m silver in 2011 before 5,000m silver in 2012.
Since crossing the line second in the 10,000m at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, the 34-year-old Farah has won every outdoor title he’s contested over 5000m and 10,000m, a run of victories that has seen him secure a reputation as one of the greatest endurance runners of all time.
And in each of the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and the 2013 and 2015 World Championships, that has meant doubling up over the two longest track championship distances.
Farah retained his 10,000m title on the first day, setting the momentum for the 5,000m title defence and another double at home after his exploits in 2012.
Farah has raced sparingly outdoor this year, taking victories over 3,000m in Kingston and London and over 5,000m in Eugene and 10,000m in Ostrava, but his record and his form suggest that he is still the man to beat.