Olympic 800m champion Pamela Jelimo and the World champion over the distance, Janeth Jepkosgei, on Tuesday jetted out to Eugene in the United States where they will lead a strong Kenyan entourage at the Prefontaine Classic athletics meeting on Sunday.
They and the World 800m champion Alfred Kirwa and Olympic 1,500m gold medallist Nancy Jebet Lagat are among nine Kenyans invited to the meet, which has a Grand Prix status as an IAAF World Athletics Tour.
Maria Mutola won 16 Prefontaine Classic in the middle distances races. But her 1:57.57 meet record, which has stood since 1997, now faces a real threat in the very first year after her retirement.
Jelimo has been nothing short of spectacular in her brief career. The 19-year-old prodigy was undefeated last year, her first-ever in the event, and ran 11 times faster than the Prefontaine Classic record.
“I wasn’t disappointed with my performance in Morocco (she was sixth in 2:02.46 in the 800m). It was my first major race in a long time; I’d just recovered from an Achilles strain,” Jelimo said.
“But I’ve done better in training; all I want is to improve on my personal best time of 1:54.01.”
Olympic silver medallist Jepkosgei and Jamaican Kenia Sinclair are in the race. “Jepkosgei is my main opponent both at home and abroad.
If we can run together as a team, I see no problem in us breaking the world record of 1:53.28 set by Jarmila Kratochvilova of Czech Republic,” said Jelimo.
Olympic 800m bronze medallist Kirwa returns to the US seeking to break the meet and Hayward Field record of 1:44.01 he set last year.
Surprise Olympic 1,500m gold medallist Nancy Lagat returns to the venue where she began her run-up to her Beijing success.
African 1,500m champion Haron Keitany and Olympic 1,500m silver medallist Asbel Kiprop head a large field that has five sub-3:50 runners, including World bronze medallist Shedrack Korir, in the Bowerman Mile, intent on taking down Daniel Kipchirchir Komen’s 2007 meet record of 3:48.28.