NAIROBI, April 10- Two-time 1500m champion, Asbel Kiprop, world junior champion, Alfred Kipketer and Olympics bronze medallist Timothy Kitum will headline the 30-strong Kenyan team for the second IAAF World Relay Championships in Bahamas following the national Trials that wrapped on Friday evening in Nairobi.
World, Commonwealth and African 800m champion, Eunice Sum and her mentor and 2007 titleholder, Janeth Jepkosgei will not be returning to Bahamas in the women’s squad after being omitted by Athletics Kenya (AK) from the Trials.
The Trials held at Safaricom Stadium were more of a dress rehearsal for the world event with the selected runners staggered across the various races on the cards with Nigerian and Botswana athletes adding flair to the floodlit event.
Kiprop who is bidding for a third successive World title in Beijing this summer and anchored the Kenyan 4X1500m quartet to gold and the world record last year in Bahamas ran the second leg of 800m of the men medley relay final in the Athletics Kenya (AK) A select team that took the honours in 9:25.81 ahead of AK B (9:27.18) and Police (9:36.60).
“I’m always proud of representing the country as I prepare to hopefully defend my title in Beijing. Running in Bahamas will give me a good chance to improve on my speed work early in the season.
“After winning in Bahamas last year, I did not do as well as expected but this being a World Championship year, I will train harder so that I can be the first Kenyan to win the 1500m World title for the third time,” the lanky Kiprop, who took the baton from Nicholas Bett (400m) before Abednego Chesebe (1200m) and last year’s junior sensation, Ronald Kwemoi (1600m) anchored them to victory stated.
World junior record holder Kwemoi, 19, the Commonwealth silver and African bronze medallist in 1500m also made the men’s medley team alongside Kiprop as he promised to carry his progression into the season.
“After running Bahamas last year, I got to know how running with seniors is and this season, I’m looking forward to compete better and run faster and the World Championships remains my dream,” Kwemoi, who arrived from his base in Japan on Thursday night said after winning the last leg.
Rotich who ran in the 4X800m race at the trials for AK B who were beaten to second (7:11.4) and was part of the victorious Kenyan quartet at the event in Bahamas last year as well as Chesebe complete the country’s men medley team announced by federation vice-president, David Okeyo.
Kitum who is returning after a year out on military training was part of the AK A quartet that won the 4X800m in 7:09.1 anchored by the junior two-lap world champion Kipketer with their unheralded teammates, Jeremiah Mutai and Nicholas Kiplagat completing the Bahamas line-up in the race.
World champion, Sum and Osaka 2007 titleholder and Beijing Olympics silver medallist, Jepkosgei who were in the team that won silver behind America in the women’s 4X800m relay last year were not invited for the trials after AK decided against including athletes who did not take part in the domestic Safaricom Relay Series rounds.
“You have seen we don’t have the likes of Sum or Jepkosgei in this team because we decided to include only those who took part in our series. We shall do the same for the World Championships and we are telling every athlete and their agents that they have to take part in at least two local events to be invited for Trials.
“Kenya has a big wealth of talent and we cannot fail to find athletes to take to international competition. We cannot have people waiting to be added to the team because they are champions. We will take this largely unknown team and they will perform,” AK president and IAAF Council Member, Isaiah Kiplagat declared in what will brew controversy with many elite athletes who are often signed up for overseas circuit races.
Sammy Rono, who led the team last year to Bahamas continues in the role of head coach assisted by Stephen Mwaniki with former Olympic 1500m champion, Noah Ngeny appointed Team Manager.
Botswana, anchored by Africa record holder Isaac Makwala; beat the locals in the men’s 4X400m race in 3:04.87 against 3:04.88 in the most thrilling finish of the day after he beat former World Youth silver medallist, Alfas Kishoyan anchoring for AK A by the thickness of the vest on the line.
Zacharia Kamberuka, Pako Seribe and Gaone Maotoanong partnered Makwala in a race where the Kenyans Alex Sampao, Boniface Mweresa and Michael Makan led until the last change over where the record holder and Kishoyan took it to the exciting climax.
“I was using this competition to prepare for our own relay trials. The Kenyans gave us a race because they are good. We shall prepare well to give Botswana a good team,” Makwala who took time to recover from being extended at the punishing Nairobi elevation said.
He confirmed their star, Olympics silver medallist and Commonwealth Games champions in 800m, Nijel Amos, who was expected in Nairobi will not be travelling to Bahamas.
Nigeria (Omolara Omotosho, Patience Okon, Ossai Rita and Oluwatosin Adeloye) beat home girls AK A (Jacinta Shikanda, Francisca Koki, Veronica Mutua and Joyce Zakary) to the tape in 3:31.27 against 3:35.83 to stamp their supremacy in the sprints in the corresponding women 4X400m final.
Men: 4X200m; Pius Muia, Geoffrey Kiprotich, Michael Mokamba, Collins Omae, Mark Otieno: 4x400m; Alex Sampao, Boniface Mweresa, Michael Makan, Alfas Keshoyan, Raymond Kibet: 4x800m; Alfred Kipketer, Nicholas Kiplagat, Jeremiah Mutai, Timothy Kiptum, Bernard Kipyegon: Medley; Asbel Kiprop, Ronald Kwemoi, Ferguson Rotich, Abednego Chesebe, Pogisho
Women: 4x800m; Annet Mwanzi, Sheila Chesang, Eglay Nalianya, Sylvia Cherop, Purity Cherotich: Medley; Selah Jepleting, Sylvia Chesebe, Virginia Nyambura, Joyce Zachary, Francisca Koki.
Coaches; Sammy Rono, Stephen Mwaniki, Rose Muya, Assistant TM; Noah Ngeny Physiotherapist; Sarah Karongo, Peter Nduhiu.
-By Mutwiri Mutuota and Alex Isaboke