World 800 metres bronze medallist Janeth Jepkosgei on Friday won women’s 1,500m heats at the fourth National Bank of Kenya and Athletics Kenya track and field meeting at Kenyatta Stadium in Kitale.
Former Africa 1,500m champion Harun Keitany also triumphed in the action-packed contest, where foreign athletes upset the form book. The duo produced a tongue-wagging showing to wow the huge crowds that turned up for the two-day action.
Jepkosgei, who won Olympic silver medal in Beijing in 2008, tore the 1,500m line-up to shreds as she strolled to victory in four minutes and 27.1 seconds.
Former world junior 800m silver medallist Winnie Chebet (4:27.5), new catch Jepkosgei Korir (4:29.0) and Faith Cheruto (4:31.8) followed in that order.
Africa two-lap race sensation Eunice Sum (4:18.0) led world cross-country regulars Janet Kisa (4:18.0), Pamela Lisoreng (4:19.8) and world cross-country silver medallist Linet Masai (4:20.1) in heat two to qualify for the finals.
In another heat, upstarts Joan Chelimo (4:23.2) and former Commonwealth Youth Games 1,500m titleholder Stacy Ndiwa (4:23) also shone.
Jepkosgei, better known as ‘Eldoret Express’, sounded her intent for an Olympic gold in London.
She said: “The performance boosts my morale in the battle for the Olympic gold medal which is the only medal missing in my trophy cabinet.”
Tough battle ahead
“But I know it will not be easy. Jelimo (Pamela) is not the only one to offer challenge. We have South Africa’s Caster Semenya and that’s why I am using 1,500m to gauge my endurance.”
Fireworks is expected in Saturday’s men’s 1,500m final when top four-lap race guns square it out. Keitany, who made his comeback after almost two seasons out of action, beat a classy field, blasting to victory in an impressive 3:42.2 ahead of Gilbert Kipsang (3:42.8) and Bernard Kiptum (3:44.5).
Former World Youth 1,500m champion Mike Too (3:48.7), Vincent Kibet (3:49.4) and Tony Wamulwa (3:49.7) of Zambia finished 1-2-3 in Heat Two.
Sudan’s Ousma Yahya (3:46.7) carried heat three, beating Kenya’s Adendect Chesebe (3:46.9) and Benjamin Kiplagat (3:47.4) of Uganda.
But New Zealand’s Jake Robertson (3:47.2) was the show-stopper, outrunning former world Youth great Daniel Selel (3:53.0) and Richard Kiplagat (3:53.2). Two-time world 3,000 steeplechase champion Ezekiel Kemboi faded to seventh in 3:56.1
Robertson, finalist in Daegu Worlds 5,000m final, was elated with the win: “This is my first win after training in Iten since 2005. It is a Good Friday gift for me. I now strive to attain the Olympic 5,000m qualifying mark.”
Little-known Duncan Kipchirchir lived upto his billing, winning men’s 5,000m final in 13:52.9 ahead of world cross-country runner, Hosea Macharinyang (13:59.7) and World Indoor runner Bethwel Birgen 14:01.1).
Africa Junior 3,000m champion Jairus Kipchoge (14:01.4), Uganda’s Commonwealth Games 5,000m and 10,000m supremo Moses Kipsiro (14:02.2) and World Cross-country silver medallist Thomas Ayieko (14:03.2) followed in that order.
Olympic 1,500m champ Asbel Kiprop and world silver medallist Silas Kiplagat were set to battle yesterday in men’s 8oom final.