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Kenya’s big guns ready to rumble

Wednesday July 29 2015

Asbel Kiprop (centre) leads Timothy Kitum (left) and Jonah Koech during the National Athletics Championship 800m semi-finals on July 10, 2015 at the Kasarani Safaricom Stadium. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |

Asbel Kiprop (centre) leads Timothy Kitum (left) and Jonah Koech during the National Athletics Championship 800m semi-finals on July 10, 2015 at the Kasarani Safaricom Stadium. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |  

DAVID MACHARIA
By DAVID MACHARIA
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For a hugely talented country in the middle and long distance races, you can be certain there will be fireworks this weekend at the Kenya trials for the World Athletics Championships at Kasarani.

The events will have added competitiveness because the runners will be pushing hard to finish in positions that will guarantee them a place in the World Championships even though a team for the African Games will also be selected.

The World Championships will be staged in Beijing from August 22 to 30 while the African Games will be in Brazzaville from September 4 to 19.

Going by the times achieved by the 800m men runners, who have been included in the start list this weekend, the battles could be decided by very thin margins.

Olympic champion David Rudisha is definitely going to be a major target of other runners because of his mixed returns in the few Diamond League races he has participated in.

Losing three times to Botswana’s Nijel Amos this season has exposed the Olympic champion’s vulnerability.

There’s also Job Kinyor and Ferguson Cheruiyot, who earned their place on the start list because of attaining 1.43.92, against the World Championship qualifying time of 1:46.00.

But Rudisha, the 2012 London Olympic gold medallist, who recently clocked 1:43.58, still has some petrol in his tank and can rise to the occasion and silence his opponents.

The man who took bronze at the London Olympics, Timothy Kitum, will need to use the occasion to prove his mettle since he has been away from the limelight since the Olympics final race where Rudisha set the world record time of 1:40.91.

Other runners to watch in the men’s 800m are Alfred Kipketer (1:44.33), Robert Kiptoo, 1:44.69, Jeremiah Mutai (1:45.50) and Jackson Kivuva, 1:45.40.

When the starter’s gun goes off in the women’s 800m, spectators will not be in doubt as to who the winner will be since World champion, Eunice Sum (1:56.99), is in a class of her own.

With Sum a definite winner, barring catastrophe, the battle to watch in the race will be between former world champion Janeth Jepkosgei (2:00.02), secondary schools champion Margaret Nyairera (2:00.49), Viola Lagat (2:02.61) and Lydia Wafula (2:03.03).

KIPROP HOT FAVOURITE

Any athletics lover will put his money on Asbel Kiprop to win the men’s 1,500m event at the trials. The world champion clocked a world leading time of 3:26.69 at the Monaco Diamond League, to become the third fastest man over the distance.

(READ: Sum, Kiprop too hot to handle in London meet)
With Kiprop’s win a certainty, the other positions will be left to the other 21 runners entered in the race.

Interestingly, among those called is Augustine Choge, who has been silent for far long, perhaps because he hasn’t been featuring in the Diamond League races that have largely overshadowed other track events in the world.

Apart from Choge, fans should watch out for Elijah Manangoi (3:29.67), Ronald Kwemoi (3:30.40), Silas Kiplangat (3:30.12), Bethnel Birgen (3:31.22), James Magut (3:31.76), Collins Cheboi (3:31.88) and Vincent Kibet (3:31.96) in the 1,500m.

Just like in the women’s 800m, the winner in the women’s 1,500m will, by a high degree, likely be Faith Kipyegon because her 3:58.01 is unmatched in the start list. Other positions are up for grabs.

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