A nation prays for Gold

August 23, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, August 23 – With three middle distance finals scheduled for the penultimate day of the 29th Olympics in Beijing, Kenya will be hoping to add to its medal tally on Saturday.

Former World Indoor champion Wilfred Bungei and reigning World champion Alfred Kirwa Yego will be the first Kenyans in action in the men’s 800 metres final at pm 2:30pm.

Minutes later, Nancy Jebet Lagat will attempt to win Kenya her first ever medal in the women’s 1500 metres with the 5,000 metres trio of Edwin Soi, Thomas Longosiwa and Eliud Kipchoge running in the final at 5:10 pm.

Bungei has been surprisingly good at the games so far posting impressive wins in the heats but the final will pose the hardest target yet for the 28 year old.

He has finished fifth in his last two major finals in Athens and in Osaka last year and is desperate for a medal in Kenyan colours to cap off great years of service for his country.

With him for company will be Kirwa who is seeking to become the first man ever to win both the Olympics and world titles. The diminutive athlete set the fastest time in the heats and his finishing kick my yet prove decisive.

The duo will however have to contend with Kenyan born Bahraini Yossef Saad Kamel who qualified as one of the fastest loser but has run1:42.79 this year, World silver medallist Gary Reed and Yeimer Lopez who has a seasonal best of 1:43.07.

Sudan’s Ismalil Ahmed Ismail surprised himself by reaching the final and will pose a threat as will the Algerian pair of Nabil Madi and Nadjim Manseur.

Kenya has only ever own one 5,000 metres gold medal (by John Ngugi in 1998) and they will have to run out of their skins if they are to add to that tally.

With Olympic 10,000 metres champion Kenenisa Bekele, World 5,000 metres champion Bernard Lagat, World junior champion Abraham Cherkos and world Indoor champion Tariku Bekele on the lineup, tactics will play a huge part.

Should the Soi, Kipchoige and Longosiwa set a quick pace or should they trust in their finishing speeds?

Kipchoge looked very comfortable in qualifying and given his track record, a podium finish is a possibility while Longosiwa seemed to struggle towards the end of his heat.

Soi has a devastating finishing kick and if he is still in it with 200 metres to go, then he could pull it off.

Before the 5,000 metres Jebet Lagat will seek to win her first Olympic medal.

The mother of one who turned 27 on Friday was the quickest in the heats in 4:03.02 and a good showing here will cap off a great showing by the women in Beijing.

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