Africa 5,000 metres champion Edward Zakayo hopes he will have fully recovered from an illness as he prepares battle in his specialty as the trials for the IAAF World Championships get underway at the Nyayo National Stadium on Thursday.
At the same time, the 2015 world 3,000m steeplechase champion Hyvin Kiyeng, who is eager to reclaim her title, has thrown down the gauntlet for her rivals ahead of the straight final.
The men and women’s 800m semi-finals are saturated with some of the country’s top cream, with former world 800m champions Eunice Sum (2013) and Janeth Jepkosgei (2007) out to try their luck.
United States-based Emmanuel Korir and Michael Saruni, who arrived in the country two weeks ago, and 2016 Diamond League Series 800m winner Ferguson Rotich, are among the star-attractions in men’s two-lap race semi-finals.
Athletics Kenya will select a squad of 46 athletes for the World Championships slated for September 28 to October 6 in Doha, Qatar.
Zakayo, the World Under-20 Championships’ 5,000m champion, was hit by pneumonia immediately after arriving from the African Games in Rabat last week where he won silver in the 5,000m.
“I haven’t really trained well, but it’s a battle I must undertake. Qualifying for Doha will mean the world to me,” said Zakayo, 17, the 2018 Commonwealth 5,000m bronze medallist. “I hope to wake up well God willing on Thursday.”
Zakayo, who has season’s best of 13:03.19, faces a strong and unpredictable field that has Nicholas Kimeli, who is the fastest in the field this season in 12:57.90 from Hengolo and the newly crowned African Games 5,000m champion Robert Kiprop (13:21.86).
National 5,000m champion Daniel Simiyu (13:15.92), 2017 World Cross Country Championships Under-20 bronze medallist Richard Kimunyan, and seasoned runners Davis Kiplagat and Ronald Kwemoi are also vying for the three slots in the 5,000m team to Doha. Kiyeng, the 2017 world 3,000m steeplechase bronze medallist, should brace herself up for a pulsating battle in the race where world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech is not only touted as favourite to win but also take her dominance to Doha.
By retaining the Diamond League Series title in Zurich on August 29, Chepkoech sealed her automatic place at Doha World Championships.
Chepkoech clocked 9:01.71 to retain her Diamond League Series title, beating Kiyeng and Norah Jeruto to second and third places in 9:03.83 (SB), and 9:05.15 respectively.
The 2012 World Under-20 Championships 3,000m steeplechase champion Daisy Jepkemei came in fourth in 9:06.66 as reigning world champion, Emma Coburn settled fifth in 9:10.01. Jeruto, Jepkemei and newly-crowned African Games 3,000m steeplechase champion Mercy Wanjiru are also in the opulent mix.
“I have prepared well but a Kalenjin saying has that you can’t talk of tomorrow when you haven’t accomplished today’s,” said the 27-yeaqr-old Kiyeng, who claimed silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics. “Finishing second in Zurich in my best time this year gives me hope and inspiration.”
However, assured of a place in Doha, Chepkoech, 28, isn’t sure if she will compete at the trials. “I have not even started my journey to Nairobi and I don't know if I will compete because I did a hard training session today,” said Chepkoech, who also won the Shanghai, Prefontaine and Birmingham legs of the Diamond League.
Her time of 8:55.58 is the fastest this season.